Road safety is a subject that’s close to the hearts of anyone involved in haulage work. Any innovations or road projects are watched with close interest, so fleet managers and HGV drivers have welcomed the news of Highways England's implementation of a programme to install "intelligent" cat's eyes in one of the busiest junctions in the country.
The LED cat's eyes are already in place in the Hindhead Tunnel in Surrey, but the latest programme (which is part of a £3-million project to improve safety at the junction of three A roads and the M57 and M58 at Switch Island, Merseyside) is the first to see them installed at a motorway junction.
Designed by Clearview Intelligence, an Oxfordshire company, the so-called intelligent cat's eyes are connected to traffic lights via cables that run under the road and through an automatic controller unit. The studs light up when the traffic lights turn green to provide a clear indication of which lane drivers should follow as they accelerate in traffic.
Visible from up to 1,000 metres, the studs are far superior to the traditional version. They've already been proven to be highly successful in the reduction of drivers drifting between lanes when used in conjunction with traffic light changes (up to 50% in certain conditions), which, in turn, dramatically reduces the risk of accidents.
While the original concept of cat's eyes has been around since 1933 and was originally the brainchild of a Yorkshire man, the contemporary version is capitalising on new technology to take it into its next generation. Not only will it provide greater safety for all road users (not just those doing haulage work), but once it’s in place, the cat's eyes will give drivers a greater level of confidence when navigating this particularly difficult junction.
Used by more than 90,000 vehicles daily, Switch Island junction is one of the country's busiest. With an average of one collision every two weeks, it was a natural choice for the roll out of the first studs, which are used in conjunction with changing traffic lights. Highways England have plans to install around 170 of the intelligent cat's eyes in this upcoming project, along with a host of other upgrades that are designed to improve navigation, safety and traffic flow.
The junction supports a high volume of HGVs and commercial vehicles that carry out haulage work, and the installation of new and higher traffic lights (over 5 metres) will facilitate better vision for lorries and double-decker buses as they approach. Other upgrades include a shared cycle path, carriageway barriers and changes to road markings and layouts.
Funded by the UK government's £220-million congestion relief programme, and making use of close consultation with the Merseyside Police, work on the scheme commenced in February 2018, with an expected 12 months to completion.
A spokesperson for Highways England said that, along with the other planned improvements, the light-up studs would be a huge benefit to the thousands of drivers who navigate the junction at Switch Island every day. For the many HGV drivers who carry out haulage work through the junction, the scheme is set to improve journey times and significantly enhance their safety on the roads.
Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting logistics professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides services for matching haulage work with available drivers. Over 5,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.