The Age - Friday 22 December, 2006

New digital red light cameras for NSW
New digital red light cameras for NSW

Outdated red light cameras will soon be replaced by the best available digital equipment, the NSW government has warned motorists.

Deputy Premier John Watkins has admitted three quarters of all red light camera boxes in NSW were empty at any one time, following the release of figures showing most of the state's red light cameras were only operating for six months a year or less.

Responding to claims by the Pedestrian Council of Australia (PCA) and the NSW Opposition that NSW traffic cameras were outdated and inadequate, Mr Watkins said the 20-year-old technology would soon be replaced.

He said the government would soon begin the tender process for new digital cameras.

"We'll start that process very early in the new year and part of that process is also the transference of NSW Police across to the RTA," Mr Watkins said.

"We'll get the best technology here in NSW."

Figures, obtained by the PCA through a freedom of information request, show the number of cameras in NSW more than halved from 1996 - down to 69 from 160.

Only eight of the 69 cameras operated the full 12 months in 2006, with most working for six months or less.

In 2005, only two cameras worked the full year.

Opposition Leader Peter Debnam said there needed to be more cameras and a shift toward digital technology.

"There's no doubt the camera technology they're using is very old and it's very labour-intensive, there aren't enough of those cameras and they should have moved towards digital some time ago," Mr Debnam said.

The PCA also accused the government of bowing to the NSW Police Association and protecting jobs by allowing police to operate the cameras.

But Mr Watkins said the responsibility would now move to the RTA.

The move would free up police and provide more time for officers to concentrate on other areas of traffic safety, he said.

Mr Watkins also denied motorists would be tempted to flout the law, with only 40 cameras operating at NSW intersections.

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

He said the cameras were moved around 160 locations according to the operational advice of NSW Police.

PCA chairman Harold Scruby said dual-function digital speed and red light cameras should be introduced immediately at black spots across NSW.

Greens MP Lee Rhiannon said there had been no funding for red light cameras for several years, with a 2002 upgrade plan still in draft format.

"Lives are at risk while people living in Sydney wait for such a system," Ms Rhiannon said.

© 2006 AAP

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