Surprise in store for drivers who dice with death running red lights on Preston swing bridge

Impatient drivers who dice with death on a swing bridge at Preston Docks could soon be captured on camera.

By Brian Ellis
Friday, 14th January 2022, 4:33 pm

The city council is planning to install CCTV to catch motorists who jump red lights and ignore level crossing barriers in a foolhardy bid to get across the bridge before trains or boats pass through.

And one of the cameras could also have thermal imaging technology to spot people who put their lives at risk at night by "entering the water" in the dock basin.

An application has been submitted to the planning committee for two six-metre high CCTV masts on opposite sides of the swing bridge - something the council has been considering since July 2018.

Some drivers race across to beat the barriers.

The council says that although there are CCTV cameras on the dock estate, none of them point specifically at the automated traffic barriers.

Officers say drivers have been seen to drive around the barriers and accelerate across before the bridge either starts swinging to allow a boat in or out of the dock or the road is blocked off to allow a freight train carrying bitumen trucks from the nearby Total plant to drive across.

But because the barriers - in the case of a bridge swing - can be down for up to 10 minutes, some drivers have been tempted to make a run for it in the hope they can get across rather than wait.

"From time to time some drivers bypass the barriers that lower across their lane and then speed across the bridge before the exit barrier lowers across the same lane on the other side, as it has an in-built delay to allow for clearance of the bridge by slower moving vehicles," says a statement in support of the application.

CCTV cameras could soon be capturing motorists who dodge the barriers.

"Such action can result in an accident or collision with the barriers and recorded CCTV images would be useful.

"Whilst there are existing CCTV cameras in place in the general vicinity, these are positioned at the lock gates and are used during the operation of the lock gates to ensure safe passage of vessels and securing a ‘watertight’ mitre when the gates are closed.

"One of these cameras can be used to cover a wider general view of the bridge area, but none look specifically at the automated barriers.

"The images captured by the CCTV cameras will be recorded and retained for around a month, but the primary purpose of the CCTV cameras will be for operational purposes (monitoring the automated barriers) and for review only should an incident be reported."

The swing bridge moves around to allow boats into or out of the dock basin.

While the cameras are primarily intended to monitor the level crossing barriers, council officers also believe one of them could be useful in monitoring the southern walkway of the dock basin.

The docks have been the scene of a number of tragedies in recent years and it is hoped cameras could help alert emergency services to some of the incidents.

"The option is also being explored to install thermal image cameras to cover a wider view of the dock from this CCTV pole," adds the report.

"Whilst thermal cameras set to view at a long distance may not be able to provide a sharp image of a person, they would be useful in highlighting if someone has entered the water of the main dock basin from the walkway at night, which sadly has occurred on a number of occasions over the years.

"Technical and budgetary constraints will dictate the practicality of the use of thermal cameras, but the intention is there, such that this CCTV pole may have up to four CCTV cameras installed on it in the future."

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