UK Power Networks (UKPN) has trialled the use of “smart” traffic lights designed to increase traffic flow while the network operator carries out roadworks.

The new Auto-Green system has been developed alongside Kent County Council and consultants The Traffic Group and was put to use between 29 April and 3 May on roadworks at Tonbridge Road in Maidstone where UKPN has been carrying out a £10,000 project to upgrade an electrical junction box.

Auto-Green uses radar inspired by smart motorway technology to automatically adjust signals to suit the volume of traffic, reducing wait times for drivers.

UKPN says the technology increases traffic flow by up to 24 per cent and cuts pollution.

Paul Dooley, streetworks performance manager at UKPN, said: “This is the first trial in Kent using this technology which we hope will improve journeys by optimising the length of time for traffic lights to be green.

“Sometimes we need to dig up roads to install, upgrade or repair underground power cables and temporary traffic lights are usually necessary to ensure the safe passage of road users around these sites.

“We are always looking for ways to improve services and by applying smart technology we may be able to reduce the impact of essential roadworks in our local communities while also cutting emissions from having fewer vehicle engines idling.”

Kent County Council highway policy and inspections manager, David Latham, added: “I am pleased to see the results of research, with funding contributions from the Kent Lane Rental Fund, coming to fruition.

“These lights never get tired or stop monitoring and optimising themselves to maximise traffic flow, ensuring that any disruption is always kept to a minimum. This technology is better for drivers and the site operatives.”

Trials have already taken place in Essex, Hertfordshire and Northamptonshire.

The findings are currently being considered and if successful, smart lights could be deployed across the county and the other areas UKPN serves in future.

In February last year the Department for Transport (DfT) announced it would be extending lane rental schemes across the country after pilot schemes in greater London and Kent.

Utilities have to pay up to £2,500 per day to carry out street works on busy roads as part of the nationwide scheme.

The DfT recently proposed extending the minimum guarantee period for restoring road surfaces where potholes develop. Under the proposals utilities will have to go back and restore roads if potholes develop within five years where they have carried out works.

Streetworks will be a focus of this year’s Utility Week Live with a dedicated theatre and exhibition space. The event will be held at the NEC in Birmingham on 21-22 May. To find out more about the event and to register for free click here.

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