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M25 speed cameras go digital

Date: 26 February 2008   |   Author: Tristan Young

The Highways Agency has confirmed that it is in the process of replacing the wet film speed cameras in the variable speed limit section of the M25 with digital speed cameras that will never run out of film.

BusinessCar asked the Highways Agency to comment on a viral email sent to many of its readers, which claimed the authorities were clamping down on speeding motorists on the M25.

The email also claimed the new cameras would have a lower tolerance to speeding and would be active from 15 February.

A spokesman for the Highways Agency, which is responsible for England's motorways and A-roads plus the installation and running of cameras, said: "We are currently upgrading the cameras and the road markings on the M25 between J10 and J16. This is the section of the motorway where variable speed limits are used to improve traffic flow and reduce accidents. The project includes upgrading the cameras from film to digital.

"We do not comment on enforcement, and will not comment on the timing of the upgrade."

Although the viral email claimed the cameras would go live on 15 February, BusinessCar understands that this has not happened yet and that the different police forces that cover the variable speed section of the M25 are currently in discussion as to who will handle the enforcement.

The Highways Agency spokesman added: "Enforcement will be the responsibility of the police. As part of the rollout of the new cameras, a discussion is taking place with the relevant police forces (Surrey, Metropolitan Police and Thames Valley) about detailed administration arrangements."

A spokesman for Surrey Safety Camera Partnership (which enforces Surrey's cameras) told BusinessCar that it was in discussions about which single police force would run the new digital cameras on the M25.

From 1995 to 2000 the cameras were enforced by Surrey, but this changed to the Met in 2000.

The Met's traffic police spokesman said it would not comment on the tolerances of any speed camera.

BusinessCar's sources claim the Highways Agency is installing digital cameras not to catch more motorists, but to "improve compliance with the speed limit" and to improve the health and safety of its own workers who previously had to go onto gantries to change the film in cameras.

AA president Edmund King said: "The warning to motorists must be to abide by the speed limit, but most accidents on that section of the M25 are due to tailgating and bad driving, not speeding. Maybe they should use the signs to tell people not to tailgate."

King added a warning to the authorities: "The speed limit signs must reflect the road conditions - if there is a 40mph limit at 2am and it's clear, motorists will ignore the limit. If these freak limits are posted, tickets should not be handed out."

King pointed out that even though digital cameras are capable of taking 80,000 pictures a day, by law, a person is still needed to check the pictures and the number plates.