Highways Agency

Who Benefits?

This government department is responsible for many things connected with the UK roads network, and to cover everything is not my aim, but let’s just take the motorway camera system, from the perspective of the motoring public. The HA provides pictures from motorway cameras across the country not only to their own website but various others too. This, it claims, is to advise and inform motorists. Just check out the views from a random selection of cameras and what will you see? Discount the cameras not working and those pointing skywards, and you’ll probably see views of vehicles travelling along motorways – as expected. We all know that happens, nothing unusual or informative there then.

What motorists want to know is where the problems are, tailbacks, delays etc. If, for example, there’s been an accident or breakdown that causes problems drivers would benefit from seeing the situation first hand. So what do the HA do? Turn off those very cameras that would provide the best view of the situation!

They claim it’s to do with privacy but let’s face it, the images from the cameras are of sufficiently low resolution to hide all details which could reasonably be construed as private/personal. Besides, similar pictures appear in the press anyway. So that argument doesn’t hold up.

OK, there may be a small percentage of people who’d like to see the aftermath of a serious RTC [**] but as previously said the picture quality isn’t good enough for that. The vast majority of drivers simply want to make an informed decision about the situation. Remember,”..advise and inform”. How do drivers really benefits from these cameras then?

So come on HA, either provide the service or have the bottle to admit the real reason you turn off those cameras. I’m sure it can’t be good PR to display your patrols trying to deal (often not very well) with situations that not long ago would have been the domain of trained motorway police officers. But that’s what happens with “policing on the cheap” initiatives!

[**] – There’re many who believe that to actually see the carnage bad driving causes is the only wake-up call that works for some drivers. Most think “it only happens to others”, well not always!!

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3 responses to “Highways Agency

  1. I think the Highways Agency is, as you partly imply, somewhat adrift from it’s true purpose in life. It has an awkward remit, full of truly British eccentricity. If we were being cynical, we might see the Highways Agency as being the Motorway Cops equivalent of the ‘Community Police’ – no real power but very handy for carrying out drudgery on the motorways and being a truly valuable cog in the ‘compliance’ machinery.

    As for the webcams, they are – as you say – almost useless. Beyond being able to tick a box saying: “does the HA pass on travel data to the public?” they serve no public purpose. The public ‘feed’ is mere window-dressing from the HA to the outside world.

    British broadcasting has always had a policy of strictly censoring distressing or shocking images of unfolding tragedy and again, you raise a point that is well worth debate but unlikely to be changed. If you watch feeds from, say, Russia or Mexico, you will see people dying before your eyes.

    I personally do not want the last pictures of myself being alive to show me urinating in my trousers as I die from internal bleeding. And I’m sure you would agree that you would learn little yourself from seeing that, apart from that the road where I lie will remain closed for some time.

    • Thank you Roadwax for your valuable contribution. Regarding your last paragraph, unfortunately I’ve had all too much experience in that department, and still life goes on.

      • It does, indeed. Like you, I believe that these matters should be discussed and I commend your article for not shirking from the issues.