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Sydney Morning Herald Friday 22 December 2006


Motorists win the red light lottery

Jordan Baker Transport Reporter


THE state's red light cameras are letting thousands of motorists get away with dangerous driving because there are not enough of them and the technology has not been updated, figures reveal.


Statistics obtained under freedom of information laws show most camera boxes lie idle for several months a year, even at dangerous intersections.


In one case - a black spot between the Warringah Freeway and Falcon Street at North Sydney - a camera with a hit rate of up to 800 offenders a month only operated for six out of 12 months.


A camera on Croudace Street in Lambton, Newcastle, caught almost 200 in the first and only month it ran last financial year.


Across 66 sites listed by the Office of State Revenue, cameras operated for 397 of a possible 828 months.


The Pedestrian Council of Australia, which obtained the figures, said police did not have enough red light cameras and those they did have used old technology which required a police officer to install film manually.


The council's chairman, Harold Scruby, said the State Government's failure to replace 20-year-old technology with digital red light and speed cameras was costing lives.


"This is the Government that promised to save 820 lives by the year 2005," he said. "They saved none, absolutely none, and this is one of the reasons. As motorists get used to being booked, they stop running the lights."


A proposal to upgrade the cameras to digital was drafted in 2002, but has not been acted upon.


Mr Scruby is calling for all camera boxes to be fitted with digital red light and speed cameras, following the lead of Victoria, which has commissioned 65 dual-function cameras that can monitor traffic from all directions. He also called on the Government to hand over their operation to the Roads and Traffic Authority.


Several former RTA employees, who did not want to be named, agreed with him that there were not enough red light cameras to fill all the camera boxes year-round, and questioned why revenue they raised was not used to buy more. They said maintenance was a problem, as inspecting them was the only way to see if they were working.


A Greens MP, Lee Rhiannon, said she understood there had been no funding for red light cameras for several years.


"Other jurisdictions like Victoria and the ACT have invested in dual-function speed and red light cameras, but NSW is dragging the chain," she said.


The Opposition road safety spokesman, John Turner, said red light cameras should be installed in all camera boxes and the technology upgraded.


The Traffic Services Commander, Superintendent John Hartley, said police managed more than 160 red light camera sites across Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle. Locations were chosen by assessed risk.


"From time to time sites become unsuitable because of roadworks or the upgrade of intersections which may negate the need for the cameras to operate at these sites," he said. "The engineering improvements have made those sites safer. All film is changed on a programmed and regular basis to ensure it does not run out I am unaware of the issue of film running out."


A spokesman for the Police Minister, John Watkins, said an upgrade to digital would "occur in the future". Police collected the film to ensure the integrity of evidence for a prosecution.


The Police Association said it supported digital technology, and wants police involvement to stop when it is introduced.



Cameras operating all year   

Corrimal St, Wollongong 760

Five Islands Rd, Port Kembla  483

Hume Highway, Burwood  3368

O'Riordan St, Mascot  741

Princes Highway, Figtree  701



Cameras operating one month of the year    

Carey St, Toronto  10

Castle Hill Rd, West Pennant Hills  99

Great Western Highway, Blacktown 6

Parramatta Rd, Five Dock 57

Pacific Highway, Belmont 45



Figures from last financial year

© This work is copyright and is reproduced under licence from John Fairfax Holdings Limited

Sydney Morning Herald Friday 22 December 2006


Digital red lights to replace red faces

IT HAS taken four years, but the NSW Government has pledged to replace the state's old-fashioned red-light cameras with digital technology and hand control of them over to the Roads and Traffic Authority.


The Police Minister, John Watkins, admitted three-quarters of all red-light camera boxes sat empty, but said the system still worked because they acted as a deterrent.


The Herald yesterday revealed many red-light cameras were not operational and raised concerns that they were so outdated the film inside had to be manually installed by police.


A proposal to upgrade the cameras to digital was drafted in 2002.


Mr Watkins said the 20-year-old "wet film" technology would soon be replaced by new digital cameras, and that the Government would begin the tender process early in the new year.


"Part of that process is also the transference [from] NSW Police across to the RTA," he said. "We'll get the best technology here in NSW."


Mr Watkins said moving the responsibility for the cameras to the RTA would allow police to spend more time concentrating on other areas of traffic safety.


He said that even though most camera boxes were empty, their presence discouraged motorists from flouting the law.


"Police advise me there's about 25 per cent coverage at any particular time."


Cameras had always been moved around 160 sites, Mr Watkins said.


"As to locations where red-light cameras operate, I follow the operational advice of NSW Police - they determine where [the cameras] will be for operational reasons.


"The issue is a driver does not know whether or not they will be pinged if they breach that red light at that intersection and the evidence suggests that when a red-light location is identified it does have an impact on driver behaviour."


The Opposition Leader, Peter Debnam, said more cameras were needed. "It's ridiculous to think that the Government is actually talking about road safety and then not having these cameras operating."


Meanwhile, Mr Watkins said special bus and train tickets would give Sydneysiders all-night access to public transport on New Year's Eve.


They would cost between $2 and $10 and be valid from 3pm to 9am the next day. Travel within the CBD is free all night.


The Harbour Bridge will be closed between 11.45pm on December 31 and 12.45am on January 1.


Jordan Baker and AAP

© This work is copyright and is reproduced under licence from John Fairfax Holdings Limited

Channel 7 News - Red Light Cameras - Scandal Continues - Late 2008