Introduction

Members of the team at Westcotec are pleased to bring you the latest in the ongoing series of stories behind their signs. The latest ‘Sign of the Times’ takes us to the Welsh county of Pembrokeshire, where our network of Speed Indicator Devices (SIDs) and roundel speed signs support the County Council’s efforts to reduce deaths and injuries, whilst also offering easily-accessible data on vehicle speeds and volumes.

Inside the issues

The county of Pembrokeshire occupies nearly 1,000 square miles of south-west Wales. A popular coastal and rural holiday destination, Pembrokeshire has a full-time population of around 125,000. Its administrative centre is in Haverfordwest, while Milford Haven, Pembroke Dock and Pembroke are some of its other large towns. St Davids is a tiny cathedral city situated at the far western edge of the county.

Since 2021, Westcotec has supplied 75 Speed Indicator Devices (SIDs), each with data collection capability, allowing for analysis of vehicle speeds and volumes. These are mostly solar powered.

Additionally, there have also been 33 speed roundel type-signs provided, in varying designs. These have been a mixture of mains- and solar-powered devices, all installed by Westcotec’s engineers.

Clare Williams is the County Council’s senior traffic and road safety engineer. She told us more about the decision to purchase and deploy the signs.

“We looked initially at a plan to purchase speed signs following a series of community council concerns relating to vehicle speeds,” she said. “A key reason for us to choose Westcotec’s signs was the data-recording capabilities offered as an integral part of every sign. To be honest it’s so useful to have feedback in terms of data. After all, we need to justify everything we spend so it’s useful to show that signs are being effective.”

Each installation is usually a joint venture between the County Council and community councils. The County Council installs the posts, conducts the site assessments and puts the structures in place. Then the Westoctec engineers will install the signs.

“The data shows community councils how effective the signs are and what value is gained from the investment,” said Clare. “We can show from the speed and volume data that most drivers are reacting to the signs, they are heeding the reminders and are slowing down.”

Pembrokeshire had a community works fund which enabled community councils to submit bids for small infrastructure changes, up to a maximum of £10,000. Clare explained that a lot of requests were for signs like this that provided safety feedback for drivers.

These were initially seen as a quick win; community councils were able to show what they were spending their money on. The signs also appealed to the councils because road safety is one of their primary concerns.

The units provided by Westcotec are generally solar powered. These are cheaper to run and more sustainable, according to Clare. “We also know they are portable but we have gone with the idea of not moving them around. We know that some authorities like to move their signs around from one location to another, but we view the signs as more permanent features, and we also don’t want to risk damaging the signs by moving them about regularly,” she said.

The installation process

The Council carries out checks on a chosen site to ensure everything is in place for a sign installation.

Vehicle speeds are monitored to ensure that the sign is required and act a reminder to those motorists who driving faster than the signed limit. 

We inform Westcotec of the speed limit so their team has everything they need before they arrive to install.

The engineers from Westcotec are very efficient when the installation day comes – they’re efficient at liaising with authorities.

Problem solved

We had an issue with one of the early signs in the north of the county; it would not connect with the app, it was failing to respond and did not react to traffic. There were a few checks I could do on site to ensure power was getting to the unit. Once we did the checks Westcotec came very quickly and replaced the unit without any questions.

We have had no other problems. Most of the time, if there’s a fault, it’s probably at our end, such as someone striking a post to cut power, or some electrical work locally that might have isolated a sign.

Good value v cheap

When communities ask to install a sign we can’t actively recommend Westcotec, but we do like it when the councils choose Westcotec. Some councils have chosen signs from other suppliers and have lived to regret their decision because of warranty issues, long waits for call-outs and high in-life costs. You don’t realise these things until you engage with the company, so I would say it’s very important to understand at the start what additional costs you may face.

The driver experience

  • A SID will typically be located around 100 metres beyond the start of a new speed limit.

  • As a driver or rider approaches a SID , it will display their speed.

  • If they’re doing below the limit the sign doesn’t illuminate.

  • If they’re above the limit, the sign illuminates with an ‘Araf/Slow’ notice.

  • The sign includes technology which records and stores data of traffic volume and speeds, usually during five-minute periods. Number plates and any other individual vehicle data individual vehicle data is not captured.

The authority perspective

  • Council officials with the appropriate privileges can collect it via an app on an Android phone. In Pembrokeshire this data collection task is tied in with manual inspections of each SID site and visual checks of the technology.

  • Data is downloaded swiftly, and officials can then access data relating to traffic volumes, mean average speeds, the 85% percentile speed and the highest recorded speed. This can be further broken down and summarised into particular times of the day.

  • Any feedback from residents regarding speeding problems can be cross-referenced from the site data. Officials can check for any speed spikes in the day and can pass information to the police with a specific request for enforcement.

Clare’s advice

We have to do an exception report and explain why we are requesting items from a particular company and not the cheapest supplier. Bear in mind that in this specialist area, good value on a spreadsheet doesn’t always translate to best value out on the road.

The signs don’t work in isolation so ensure you have a good relationship with your local police force. We inform Dyfed-Powys Police with good data, so that they can use their resources smartly and sparingly rather than just going out on random enforcement checks. In our experience 6am on weekday mornings and during Sunday evenings tend to be peak times for speed violations.

Be ready to stick your heels in if your procurement department say you can buy cheaper systems elsewhere. Yes, there are companies that can provide speed indicator signs, but they’re unlikely to have that all-important data recording capability or the same six-year warranty offered by Westcotec.

Any initiatives you carry out with your SIDs need to be monitored. If monitoring is in place from the outset then it’s far more cost-effective than needing to add extra devices at the same site to do that job.

Understand the benefits of data capture, so that so if queried why you put a unit in a particular place you have an evidence base as to its impact, addressing a concern.

Summary 

“We have an excellent relationship with Westcotec,” Clare says. “The purchase of their signs has been a simple process. There are no hidden costs so we haven’t had to go back for additional funding. They have also honoured their prices at a time when costs have been rising.

“They are experts in their field, they understand that road safety is a complex issue and they also appreciate our situation and our obligations to our local communities and the people elected to represent them. I am happy to recommend Westcotec as a trusted supplier of technology that best suits our needs.”

To find out more about our projects please contact us.

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