Preston's Ringway roadworks have a new jam-buster - artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence is keeping traffic flowing through Preston's Ringway roadworks.

By Brian Ellis
Monday, 21st March 2022, 3:45 pm

The city is one of the first places in the UK to employ a brand new portable jam-busting traffic light system to reduce delays for drivers caused by lane closures.

The chaos and confusion caused by the £14.7m project when it began six weeks ago has given way to calmer, more orderly progress along Ringway in both directions, especially at rush hour.

And, while highways bosses believe some of that could be due to the temporary closure of Corporation Street North, the new smart lights are proving a game-changer in keeping things moving.

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"We're pleased that our careful planning and use of the latest available traffic management technology is helping to keep delays to a minimum,” said a County Hall spokesman.

"We're using a new system called Metro to manage traffic, which solves the problem we would usually have at a location such as this."

The portable Metro lights, which use cameras and wireless technology, have been put in place at the large junction between Ringway and both sides of Corporation Street.

Traffic is moving smoothly, controlled by smart lights in Ringway.

The cameras assess the traffic flow, send information to a control unit and artificial intelligence does the rest, automatically phasing the lights to clear any congestion.

The result has been far fewer hold-ups for traffic travelling through the city centre, according to highways staff.

"It was pretty bad for the first few days when work started, but it's much better now," said one.

"OK, some people might be avoiding Ringway and there aren’t any vehicles coming out of Corporation Street North at the moment, so that makes the volume of traffic less.

"But the new lights are working really well and keeping things moving."

One driver, who regularly uses Ringway to get to work in a morning said: "It was a nightmare, to be honest, at the start. It used to add between 10 and 15 minutes to me commute.

"But now it's back to where it was before the roadworks arrived - maybe even better.

"I was dreading 14 months of jams. But whatever the county council have done, it's made my journey into work a bit easier."

The Metro system, which employs radio communications, is designed to take charge of "complex and critical" roadworks. It is not a permanent fix.

But LCC are also looking to use the units at two other major junctions along Ringway during the scheme - the Friargate crossroads and the intersection at North Road – as the scheme progresses.

Explaining the new system of lights, the spokesman added: "Rather than relying on cables under the road, it works wirelessly, and the signal timings can be changed remotely if necessary, which means that we don't have to wait for an engineer to come out and visit the site if something needs to be adjusted.

"But the main reason for traffic flowing more smoothly at the moment is that the closure of Corporation Street North means there are fewer traffic movements at the junction, which has reduced waiting times."