Sydney Morning Herald - Saturday 23 December, 2006

Digital red lights to replace red faces

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The Herald yesterday revealed many red-light cameras were not operational and raised concerns that they were so outdated the film inside had to be manually installed by police.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

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