Technology and Traffic Scotland

From the Traffic Scotland 24 hour control centre, we use a range of modern Intelligent Transport Systems such as variable message signs to process and distribute real time information about the current state of the motorway and trunk road network, helping road users to plan their journeys.

Traffic Scotland works around the clock, every day of the year collecting up to date information and working with operational partners such as the police and our Operating Companies to reduce disruption caused by incidents.

This is particularly important during extreme weather conditions when we have to convene the Multi Agency Response Team to ensure the resilience of the road network and to help transmit up to date information to the public and other stakeholders.

Our focus is to minimise the effects of congestion, breakdowns and unforeseen events on the trunk road network. Our aim is to keep Scotland moving.

Red X Gantry signs

Motorway Access Control units are a feature on the M80. The signs will flash a red "X” to advise road users of restrictions and closures when required. Along with our route specific snow plan for the M80, these units help improve our operational response to weather events on this part of the trunk road network.

Ice sensors on the Queensferry Crossing

The ice sensors allow us to monitor the four weather conditions that we know can cause ice accretion when they converge within specific parameters.

They help to give us early warning of such conditions and allow us to more accurately measure and understand the conditions under which any future incidents occur.

Ice accretion will be managed on an operational basis should it happen again in the way that it has previously.

Intelligent Transport Systems

Scotland’s Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) system is operated and managed on Transport Scotland's behalf by Traffic Scotland and makes use of:

  • Automatic Number Plate Recognition
  • Average Speed Cameras
  • Variable Message Signs
Our ambitions for ITS based managed motorways are set out in Project 9 of Transport Scotland’s Strategic Transport Project Review.

This states that a variety of ITS based approaches, such as variable speed limits, ramp metering and hard shoulder running, should be applied across the most congested parts of our trunk roads.

Within our current programme, managed motorways principles using ITS are being designed into the M74 Completion, M80 Stepps to Haggs and the Forth Replacement Crossing.

Current ITS equipment employed across the network includes:

  • 145 variable message signs
  • 6 mobile variable message signs
  • 499 overhead lane control signals
  • 38 combined lane control signal/single line variable message signs
  • 60 motorway access control units
  • 3 rotating prism signs
  • 789 emergency roadside telephones
  • 388 hazard warning flashers
  • 131 CCTV cameras
  • 661 traffic monitoring sites
  • 1 ramp metering sites
  • 15 journey time monitoring sites
  • 2 journey time monitoring signs.

Automatic Number Plate Recognition

Information collected by Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras is used by Traffic Scotland to deliver reliable journey time information to drivers on the trunk road network.

We use the data to make journeys more reliable, improve strategic transport connections, encourage a shift from private cars and improving safety.

The information is particularly useful to drivers when there are incidents or delays on the trunk road network.

How it works

ANPR cameras record the Vehicle Registration Numbers (VRN) of passing traffic. These are then encrypted at a computer outstation and stored alongside the related time stamp and camera location.

By matching the encrypted VRN between camera locations, a journey time can be derived between those two ANPR locations.

This information is then collated by the Traffic Scotland Control Centre, and will be used in the future to inform drivers using variable message signs (VMS).

The data collected is retained for a limited time before being overwritten. The retention time is typically no greater than one hour as this allows adequate time for journey times to be calculated between sites.

Care is taken to ensure this process is fully compliant with the Data Protection Act.

The camera system transmits:

  • encrypted VRN
  • time / date stamp
  • location ID

The camera system does not transmit:

  • images of the driver
  • images of the vehicle
  • images of the licence plate
  • the ‘original’ number plate characters

Transport Scotland operates an ANPR camera system on parts of the trunk road network. This system currently comprises 26 cameras at 15 locations, including the M77, A726 and M8.

In the future, we hope to provide a journey time service, which may utilise ANPR and other technologies to provide accurate journey time information.

Variable message signs

Variable message signs (VMS) are electronic traffic signs.

These are used to manage the trunk road network by providing advanced warning of emergencies and incidents to aid drivers in their journey planning.

We also make use of the signs to warn drivers of future events that may cause delay.

These signs are particularly useful to drivers when there are incidents or delays on the trunk road network.

Transport Scotland has approved the current list of VMS messages for use on the Scottish trunk road network by Traffic Scotland.

We keep these messages under review, and constantly look for opportunities to improve their effectiveness. The current list of VMS messages have been developed in consultation with a number of key stakeholders.

The next stage of the use of the VMS will be in providing reliable journey time information similar to information already provided by other UK road operators.

When the signs are not required for any of these purposes, we use VMS to promote and support road safety, network operation and other related campaigns. The VMS signs are part of Transport Scotland’s overall ITS Action Plan.

The action plan has invested over £28M since 2007.

If you have any suggestions on how we might improve the ITS system, or any comments on the use of VMS signs, please contact us.