Major traffic signals upgrade planned for the North East

The North East is set to benefit from a series of traffic signals upgrades on major bus routes across the region.

Funded by the region’s Transforming Cities Fund programme, almost £20 million will be invested in modernising and connecting traffic signals across the North East, aimed at improving public transport.

By using the latest technology, major bus routes will be upgraded which will prioritise buses at key junctions to help improve bus reliability and journey times.

This will reduce congestion affecting public transport, improve air quality, and help to encourage people out of their cars and on to public transport.

The intelligent transport systems (ITS) project will be delivered by Newcastle City Council on behalf of the seven local authorities in the North East, and will initially see up to 300 signal upgrades and bus services prioritised on up to 17 strategic bus corridors, followed by buses fitted with technology to provide extra green light and enhanced real-time passenger information to significantly improve the experience of the travelling public.

Cllr Martin Gannon, Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, said: “This is an important project for our region to make sure that bus services get priority through busy road junctions, thanks to funds from the region’s Transforming Cities Fund programme.

“Using the latest technology, people travelling across our region will see major improvements to bus services when the project is complete, with priority signals for buses, real-time journey information to help plan journeys and more reliable bus journey times.

“This project fully supports the objectives of the North East Transport Plan we adopted in 2021, as it will increase the use of sustainable transport and deliver real change to the travelling public.”

Cllr Ged Bell, cabinet member for development, neighbourhoods and transport at Newcastle City Council, said: “This programme of upgrades might not be one that everyone will be aware of as we roll it out, but the impacts will be a real game-changer for people across the region, improving the reliability of journeys for millions of passengers a year.

“We need the right infrastructure in place, to help people make the switch from private cars to more sustainable forms of transport, which is what this programme provides.

“This is a truly transformational programme for the region, which will connect the North East and modernise our transport systems to improve journey times and bus reliability for people getting work, education or leisure and help us deliver our Net Zero ambitions.”

Starting in April, this first phase of works will see new traffic signals installed across key bus routes. These signals will help to ensure that buses are prioritised at key junctions across the North East. 

The project will greatly improve the reliability of our region’s buses, reduce congestion and improve journey times for passengers. The scheme aims to encourage more people to use public transport, making the switch from a private car to the bus.

During the first phase, there will be very little disruption to the travelling public. There will be a more disruptive element in the summer as the works move on to key bus corridors. Full details of works planned for each area will be provided from June, and will be able to be accessed at https://connectingthenortheast.commonplace.is/. People are urged to sign up to project updates on this website to be kept fully updated as the scheme progresses.

The key bus corridors include Westgate Road and Ponteland Road in Newcastle, Durham Road in Durham, John Reid Road in South Shields, Chester Road in Sunderland and Leam Lane in Gateshead in the first 12 months.

The second phase of the scheme will build on these initial works and will use the latest technology on buses which enables vehicle location tracking and enhanced real-time passenger information. This will ensure buses have priority at traffic junctions and will deliver improvements to real-time passenger information, which is already available via the bus operators’ mobile phone apps.

When the project is complete, the new traffic signals and technology on buses will work together to allow real-time improvements to be made at traffic junctions which prioritise buses. These signal changes will be possible thanks to the investment in intelligent traffic signals technology and will improve millions of passengers journeys each year. It will also reduce congestion on our region’s road network and improve air quality.

The funding will be allocated by the region’s £208 million Transforming Cities Fund programme, which funds sustainable transport projects including public transport, active travel and park & ride schemes, reducing reliance on car travel across the region.

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