A494: 13% cut in roadside emissions since start of 50mph speed limit but “no drivers have been fined or cautioned” after being caught on camera
Update, a few people on social media suggesting the pandemic and fewer people on the roads is the root cause of the reduction.
The data, according to the report (and not us! page 11 of this report) was measured between 2nd July 2018 – 1st July 2019.
To clear up any confusion, the 50 mph speed limit was introduced in June 2018, the cameras went live in September 2019, the emissions data spans the period prior to the cameras being activated.
Roadside emissions on A494 through Deeside dropped by 13% within *twelve months of a 50mph speed limit being introduced.
The Welsh Government introduced 50mph speed reductions on five 70mph stretches of road in Wales – including the A494 and the A483 in Wrexham – in June 2018 where nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions were found to be above the legal limit as set out by an EU directive.
Average speed cameras were later introduced on the A494 in Deeside, they went ‘live’ in September 2019 however, “no drivers have been fined or cautioned” after being clocked breaking the limit,
Drivers exceeding the 50mph speed limit on the A494 in Deeside could receive a “letter or fine through their doors” from next week the Welsh Government said on Monday.
From October 4, a “first of its kind advisory letter programme,” will inform people of the importance of complying with the speed limit, ”whilst still prosecuting the most dangerous drivers.”
News that the A494 average speed cameras have not been used to enforce the 50mph speed limit was met with surprise by some on social media.
Commenting on the Deeside.com Facebook page, Dan said: “Why have the government spent money on speed cameras if they weren’t enforcing the limit? Beggars belief.”
While Sean said: “Seems a bit silly. I get that the camera still does their job as a deterrent but it’s a bit frustrating to know that the people who completely ignore the limit have been getting away with it whilst everyone else abides by it.”
Dewi commented: “What was the point in putting them up all that time ago if they weren’t going to be in use?”
While on Twitter, @haymansafc said: “The 50mph limit here is painfully slow considering it’s such a major artery, meaning cars are now ‘mixing it’ with HGV’s and difficult to change lanes. It’s dangerous”
In response to a freedom of information (FOI) request published last week, the Welsh Government confirmed that “no drivers have been fined or cautioned” as a result of data being gathered from the average speed cameras.
The A494 cameras situated along the east and westbound carriageway, monitor the 50mph zone which stretches from St David’s Park Interchange and Deeside Industrial Park Interchange.
They use automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology to continuously record cars passing from one camera to the other, with the average speed calculated over the known “baseline” distance.
Slowing down while passing directly under the cameras may not be enough to bring down the average speed between the two posts.
The system is said to encourage a smoother, safer style of driving, requiring drivers to pay constant, close attention to their speed over a given distance.
The FOI response points out North Wales Police “may have carried out enforcement by another method.”
Regular A494 users say the road has become dangerous since the speed was cut as many drivers are choosing to flout the 50mph limit.
Those who stick to the limit can find themselves precariously sandwiched between speeding vehicles on sections where there are three lanes.
In terms of enforcement, roads policing lead for Police in Wales, Assistant Chief Constable, Mark Travis said:
“The implementation of the 50mph speed limits, for environmental reasons, on some of Wales’s busiest roads is an important issue to tackle pollution and to give Wales and its communities a cleaner and healthier future.
“All four Welsh Forces are supporting its implementation, with the enforcement of these speed limits approached in a consistent, proportionate and transparent manner.”
The Welsh government said on Monday, the 50mph schemes “have already been successful in significantly lowering the levels of nitrogen dioxide in affected areas by up to 47%, helping to protect people from serious illness as well as playing a part in tackling the climate emergency.”
The only publicly available data we can find was published in March 2020 in a report titled: Annual data on NO2 concentrations for the motorway and trunk road: 2018 to 2019.
It shows concentration levels of nitrogen dioxide at the A494 roadside – for the calendar years 2018 and 2019 (July to July) – reduced from 42.2 µg/m3 to 36.6 µg/m3, a reduction of 13.3% – worth noting there are no links to the raw data.
The report notes: “Data indicates that the annual NO2 concentrations have continued to reduce at the five sites, with concentrations using national bias adjustment factors in the North Wales Zone and on the A494 at Deeside dropping below the limit of 40µg/m3 as set out in the (EU) Directive.”
“While the average speeds are below 50mph and compliance is much greater, there still remains a certain percentage of drivers exceeding the 50mph at certain times of the day.”
The report states: “Further action to promote compliance is planned including the issuing of warning letters.”
“Though the trend is decreasing for annual concentrations of NO2 at all 5 sites, the situation still remains complicated.”
“Air quality is sensitive to a number of issues including the weather/seasonal effects, traffic flows including volume, speeds and fleet mix.”
“Consequently, whilst the A494 Deeside may be compliant, removal of the 50mph speed limit measure is not be considered feasible at this time as there is concern that limits would revert into exceedance.”
In terms of the 50mph speed compliance on the A494, the data for the eastbound (EB) carriageway shows that during the first four months of operation, from 1st September 2019 to 31st December 2019, average speeds ranged from 46mph to 49.5mph.
Westbound (WB), average speeds were lower for the same period, ranging from 46mph to 49.5mph.
Speed camera monitoring data shows the percentage of vehicles travelling on the A494 at over 50mph during the same period ranged from 11% (average for November 2019) and 17% (average for September 2019)
Westbound (WB), speed camera monitoring data for the same period shows the percentage of those travelling on the A494 at over speed limit to be lower than eastbound.
The lowest month was October 2019, on average 3.7% of drivers exceeded 50mph, the highest month was September with 5.4% of drivers exceeding 50mph. Typically drivers heading west face greater levels of congestion.
The Welsh Government says that further monitoring data for 2020 “pre and post the start of restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic will be included within our update to our NO2 plan, which we intend to consult on in autumn 2021.”
*A 6th-month average was taken between 18th December 2017 and 4th June 2018, prior to the 50mph speed limit on the A494. NO2 concentrations with 50mph speed limits in place were measured for 12 months from July 2018 to July 2019.
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