Artificial system

Preston Ringway roadworks have a new blocker – artificial intelligence

The city is one of the first places in the UK to use a brand new portable anti-traffic traffic light system to reduce driver delays caused by lane closures.

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

And, while freeway bosses think that could be partly due to the temporary closure of Corporation Street North, the new smart lights are a game-changer to get things going.

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“We are delighted that our careful planning and use of the latest traffic management technology available is helping to keep delays to a minimum,” a County Hall spokesperson said.

“We’re using a new system called Metro to manage traffic, which solves the problem we would usually have at a place like this.”

Portable subway lights, which use cameras and wireless technology, have been set up at the large junction between Ringway and both sides of Corporation Street.

Traffic is smooth, controlled by smart lights in Ringway.

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

According to highways staff, the result has been far fewer blockages for traffic crossing the city center.

“It was pretty bad the first few days when labor started, but it’s much better now,” one said.

“OK, some people may be avoiding Ringway and there are no vehicles exiting Corporation Street North at this time, reducing traffic volume.

“But the new lights work very well and shake things up.”

One driver, who regularly uses Ringway to get to work in the morning, said: “It was a nightmare, to be honest, at first. It added 10-15 minutes to the ride.

“But now it’s back to how it was before the roadworks came – maybe even better.

“I was dreading 14 months of jams. But whatever the county council did, it made my journey to work a little easier.”

The metro system, which uses radio communications, is designed to support “complex and critical” road works. It is not a permanent solution.

But LCC is also looking to use the units at two other major junctions along Ringway during the project – the Friargate junction and the North Road intersection – as the project progresses.

Explaining the new lights system, the spokesperson added: “Rather than relying on cables under the road, it works wirelessly, and signal timings can be changed remotely if needed, meaning we don’t don’t have to wait for an engineer to come visit the site if something needs to be adjusted.

“But the main reason traffic is smoother right now is that the closure of Corporation Street North means there is less traffic at the junction, which has reduced wait times.”