York becomes first city in the UK to introduce ground-breaking technology to help tackle traffic tailbacks and air pollution

Pioneering technology to tackle traffic tailbacks and pollution in one of Yorkshire’s most congested cities has been introduced in the first scheme of its kind in the UK.

An aerial view of the centre of York, with the city's Minster dominating the skyline. A pioneering computer system has been introduced in the city to help tackle congestion and air pollution by managing traffic flows more effectively. (Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire)

York Council announced yesterday that it has launched the computer modelling to manage the historic city’s roads network.

The technology is the first real-time transport model of this scale that has been used in the UK, although it mirrors similar systems in place in cities around the globe including Vienna, Abu Dhabi, Moscow and Sydney.

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The council’s head of programmes and smart place, Dave Atkinson, said: “We’re delighted to be the first city in the UK to introduce this innovative and cutting-edge technology to improve journeys and reduce pollution in York. At this early stage it’s already proving to be a success.

“We’re able to predict future traffic levels based on our live traffic behaviour and manage the flow of traffic better in busy periods by adjusting traffic lights to best suit traffic conditions.”

York’s notoriously congested roads network has been compounded by the historic lay-out of the city which has meant infrastructure improvements have to be carried out sympathetically to fit in with its centuries-old heritage.

The council has monitored the network via closed circuit television cameras and social media feeds, with operators and transport engineers manually implementing signal changes to manage traffic flow in busy periods.

With the new PTV Optima system installed in the control room, council officers can now adopt a more proactive approach to monitor and change the network to best suit traffic conditions.

The new software will be able to predict the impact on the wider road network in the event of crashes and will allow the council to react ‘live’ by changing traffic light timings and quickly informing the public of possible delays.

The model involves more than 100 live traffic flow sensors, a further 100 live signal controllers, live speed data provided by TomTom, and up-to-date information about roadworks.

In areas where the technology has previously been introduced, travel times have been reduced by nearly 10 per cent.