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Smart cities: Urban Traffic Control (UTC)

This scheme forms part of a programme of investment through the Transforming Cities Fund (TCF) that collectively helps reduce congestion, improve air quality and help the city prosper by investing in infrastructure to improve public and sustainable transport connectivity on key commuter routes across the city.

Scheme summary

The completed Urban Traffic Control (UTC) scheme plays a vital role in the growth of the local economy by reducing congestion and increasing investment viability for industry within Plymouth. This, combined with new traffic signal infrastructure contributes to a safer and more efficient city for pedestrians, cyclists and road users.

The new CCTV centre monitors 356 cameras across Plymouth, 24 hours a day 365 days a year. It covers key transport routes, car parks, district shopping centres and city centre pedestrian areas. It brings together teams from across the Council including CCTV operators, urban traffic control officers and staff from the highways maintenance contractor in a modern, collaborative working space. With 57 high-definition screens (which can also provide multiple split-screens) staff can display images from at least three times as many locations as before at a much higher resolution.

Dated computer equipment and systems have been replaced with improved traffic control software and better connectivity to signalised junctions so engineers can adapt timings in response to problems on the city’s roads. Systems also draw in traffic data from the Council’s public transport and events teams as well as the emergency services and the Tamar Bridge and in due course will also include occupancy data from the city’s car parks.

Engineers can monitor journey times which will help to identify congestion hotspots, improve signal timing efficiency and inform future traffic management strategies.

It also enables teams to better manage traffic flow and provide priority where necessary, for example to improve bus service reliability. Emissions monitoring from air quality sensors at designated sites now means traffic control staff can respond to immediate air quality deterioration, for example by relocating queuing vehicles.

Traffic signals at various junctions across the city have been fitted with more intelligent ‘MOVA’ units which helps make signals perform more efficiently resulting in less congestion, fewer delays and reduced emissions.

MOVA units also 'learn' regular traffic movements which can be particularly useful in locations where traffic conditions vary considerably by time of day, day of week or even season.

This smarter technology can monitor the number of vehicles approaching from further away and assess the impact that queues will have on the junction, meaning ‘green time’ can be adjusted in a more responsive way.

Scheme objectives:

  • expand the city's traffic management capabilities whilst increasing road capacity by 13 per cent (Department for Transport prediction) therefore making effective use of the network at all times of day and night
  • enable greater interaction between the strategic road network and the city's road network more efficiently.
  • manage the highway effectively to prevent/reduce traffic congestion
  • improve journey time reliability, especially for key events
  • improve response to unplanned incidents on the network.

Images of completed scheme:

Road and black boxes
Economic summary 

Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) 8.60

Value for money category: Very high
Funded by UK Government logo