Scotland to pioneer traffic data scheme

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(First Edition)

SCOTLAND is to pioneer a national traffic control system, which will co-ordinate all road traffic data, transmit information to drivers through sophisticated variable road signs, and integrate private in-car information systems with the public services.

The National Driver Information and Control Strategy was unveiled yesterday by Lord Douglas-Hamilton, Under-Secretary at the Scottish Office with responsibility for roads. Under the plans, still at the consultation stage, the agency would be responsible for collecting and checking traffic information and serving the needs of road authorities, police, broadcasters, motoring organisations and the new private companies offering specialist in-car data.

Lord James said the economic and environmental benefits of reduced road accidents, congestion and wasted journeys that new driver-information technology could bring 'would be considerable'. A recent Confederation of British Industry survey estimated that traffic congestion in the UK was costing pounds 15bn annually in time lost and increased vehicle operating costs.

The first step towards the national system will be upgrading the traffic control systems operating in Glasgow (Citrac, controlling the city's motorway network) and in the Forth estuary (Fedics, a driver information strategy operating between Abington and Perth in the east of Scotland).

Firms have been invited to tender for the pounds 12m contract to combine the two systems into one control centre for central Scotland, and improving the technology of road displays which can provide variable information.

Extending the tried and tested new system to the remaining areas of Scotland would be the next phase. Ultimately, the Scottish Office hopes to have a national traffic management system and a single headquarters which takes in and puts out all road data.

The information technology expertise which is developed is also likely to be offered in world markets, which are predicted to grow to pounds 29bn by 2010, with Europe accounting for half of this growth.