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Big Brother fears over cameras on motorways


Chief operations officer Alex Young in the Dublin Port Tunnel control room. Photo: Frank McGrath

Chief operations officer Alex Young in the Dublin Port Tunnel control room. Photo: Frank McGrath

Chief operations officer Alex Young in the Dublin Port Tunnel control room. Photo: Frank McGrath

MOTORISTS beware -- Big Brother is watching you. The National Roads Authority (NRA) plans a massive investment in CCTV cameras and other technology across the motorway network next year.

Hi-tech systems will be able to track individual vehicles as they travel across the country, giving vital data on journey times and travel numbers.

The number of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras will increase from 80 to 126, allowing transport chiefs to track individual vehicles between two points and calculate the flow speed of traffic in order to inform motorists in real time of delays ahead.

However, the cameras deliberately supply an "encrypted" partial version of the number plates and only hold the data for a limited period of time so that individual cars are not monitored.

The NRA was yesterday keen to stress that motorists would not be targeted.

"People think it's Big Brother but actually it's more like a cousin," a spokesman said.

The ANPR cameras are used to supply data that will help plan road improvements and upgrades, give detailed data on journey times, show the busiest junctions and detect collisions and breakdowns.

The extra cameras are part of a €20m investment next year on so-called Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) to help monitor traffic flows, communicate with motorists and expand transport bosses' ability to deal with emergencies.


Among the most valuable detection systems are CCTV cameras which retrieve information on traffic volumes, speeds, occupancy of vehicles and types of vehicles using the network while also giving up-to-the-minute information on queues at busy junctions.

There are 40 on the network at present, which will increase to more than 100 by the end of next year.

The investment will also see an increase in emergency SOS phones from 989 to 1,300 as part of plans to have one phone on every 2km of the 1,187km motorway network.

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Operators based in the National Traffic Control Centre at the Dublin Port Tunnel deal with motorway queries ranging from people seeking help after breaking down, to motorists looking for directions, the correct time, information on speed limits and concerns over wildlife.

Road bosses will also increase the number of Variable Message Signs (VMS) -- which communicate with drivers and give information on traffic times and emergency messages -- from 57 to 84. Most of the equipment will be in place by the summer.

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