NOTE: This content is old - Published: Monday, May 14th, 2018.
If you’re a regular on the A494 you may have wondered why a couple of electronic signs have popped up along the main route into North Wales from England.
(Ah, ok just us then! Anyway…)
The displays, known as VMS – variable message signs – have carried a couple of different messages over recent weeks, the main one being ‘DIM TAFLU SBWRIEL – NO LITTERING.’
One of the mobile signs has been stationed alongside the former RAF base at Sealand, the other, at the bottleneck on the approach to the bridge spanning the River Dee.
The signs are being used along trunk roads across Wales during a month long anti-littering campaign to encourage road users to think wisely about disposing of waste.
The Welsh Government says it costs more than a £1,000 a night for six workers to clear litter from a 2km stretch of trunk road and roadside, whilst the cost of a lane closure to do so is in excess of £2,600 a night.
Economy and Transport Secretary Ken Skates said:
“Littering on our roads can be costly and have far reaching implications, from impacting on our economy to blighting our environment and putting the safety of other motorists at risk.
Frustratingly, it also means lane closures are required for litter picks which is something we all want to avoid seeing on our network unless absolutely necessary.
We receive a number of complaints about litter on the road network and while we work closely with local authorities to coordinate litter picking activities, this is an issue where we all have an important role to play.
I urge everyone to play their part and by working together towards the same goal we can help ensure our roads and roadsides are safer, tidier and litter free.”
The VMS’s are not just being used to send out messages about littering, they look to be part of the Welsh Government’s ‘10 quick wins’ initiative it wants to implement on the A55 / A494 ideally before the peak summer period in a bid ease congestion and improve how incidents are dealt with.
The aim of the signs is to ‘better communicate to the travelling public about journey times, congestion, delays, incidents and positive messages.’
Other ‘Quick Wins’ on the list produced by the Welsh Government last year include additional CCTV, incident detection software, free vehicle recovery from incident hotspots and additional traffic officers.
Another message seen displayed on the two VMS units in Deeside has been ‘QUEUE AHEAD.’
For motorists stuck in the usual peak time and bank holiday tailbacks on the A494 the message may come a little late to rethink journey plans, given the location of the signs or at least one of them.
The first sign as you cross the border has moved positions on several occasions but now seems to have found a fairly permanent location near the former RAF base, however – in the event of any long delay or road closure the position of this particular VMS means any opportunity to divert via the Flint turn off along the A548 over Flintshire Bridge is missed.
Many drivers will already be stuck in queues by the time they come across the first illuminated sign warning of queues ahead, drivers then face the choice to keep going in the hope queues start to thin out further along the A55 or find an alternative route.
With alternative routes limited, those less familiar with Deeside may be tempted to come off the A494 at Queensferry and try to navigate the heavily congested Deeside strip to Flint or come off at Aston and get lost in the housing estates around Shotton.
A Welsh Government Spokesperson said:
“The Mobile Variable Messaging Signs (MVMS) play a vital role in informing the travelling public of messages relating to the road network such as incidents and conditions.
The Signs were installed at their current locations to ensure they complied with standards.
In order to locate the Signs before the A548 off-slip they would have to be located in England which would not be the responsibility of the Welsh Government.
Highways England are responsible for installing infrastructure such as MVMS within the boundaries of trunk roads and motorways in England.”