Exclusive: Authorities spend over £28m maintaining speed cameras

February 09, 2023 by

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carwow investigation uncovers the cost of running the UK’s network of 4,000+ speed camera

UK police, councils and transport authorities have spent £28.7 million over five years maintaining the country’s network of 3,328 fixed speed cameras and 807 average camera schemes, an exclusive investigation by carwow has found.

We asked the UK’s 45 police forces, as well as local authorities with responsibility for roads, how much they spent maintaining the thousands of speed cameras they have responsibility for, finding councils spending £3.2 million across 2018 to 2022, police forces paying £4.6 million, and transport authorities £20.9 million.

These costs cover the maintenance spends of 26 local councils, the 15 police forces who provided costs, as well as Transport for London (TfL), Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) and Transport Scotland.

TfL had the highest costs of any organisation, with the capital’s transport agency telling carwow it spent an average of £3.63 million each year maintaining and repairing the network of 827 fixed and 135 average speed cameras under its responsibility; this equates to £3,773 per camera, per year in maintenance costs.

Transport Scotland, meanwhile, spent £2.28 million maintaining 165 fixed cameras and 9 average-speed zones, with Transport for Greater Manchester spending a shade under £450,000 running the 142 fixed camera housings, and two average cameras it had data for.

For comparison, North East Lincolnshire Council spent £118,965 from 2018-2022 running one average speed-camera zone, comprising two individual cameras and situated on the A16 Peaks Parkway in Grimsby.

Many authorities shared their costs for running their speed cameras, but others declined on the basis that doing so could impact their ability to negotiate future maintenance contracts. Some police forces, meanwhile, declined to share the number of speed cameras in their jurisdiction on the basis of crime prevention.

Nonetheless, the average spend by police forces who told us of their costs was just under £63,000 a year.

Lancashire police spent the most out of any constabulary on maintaining speed cameras, with costs totalling just over £944,000 from financial years 2018/19 to 2022/23 (up to November 2022). Of this, £730,051 was incurred maintaining eight average speed-camera zones, including “maintenance, calibration, support, managed service and hardware refreshment”. Lancashire also spent £214,341 running 24 fixed speed cameras, though the force noted these costs do “not include back office maintenance, data or adjudication costs.”

Essex County Council topped the list of council spenders responding to carwow’s freedom of information request, with total costs of £1.1 million over five years – though the council highlighted that in addition to the 35 speed cameras it had responsibility for maintaining, that £1.1m outlay is “covered on behalf of the Highway Authorities by the Safer Essex Roads Partnership.” This organisation involves Essex County Council, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and Thurrock Council, as well as Essex Police, Essex Fire and Rescue Service, Highways England, The Essex and Herts Air Ambulance Trust, The East of England NHS Trust and The Safer Roads Foundation.

Leicestershire County Council (LCC) spent the next highest amount, detailing £502,169.98 in costs split across 19 fixed ‘Truvelo’ cameras, and 7 average ‘SPECS’ speed zones over four financial years. LCC explained that it runs, however, the Leicester, Leicestershire & Rutland Road safety partnership in conjunction with Leicester City Council, Leicestershire County Council, Rutland County Council, National Highways and Leicestershire Police.

Authorities told us cameras detected 7.8 million speeding drivers between 2018 and 2022, equivalent to 1.56 million tickets a year – although only 35 of the UK’s 45 forces provided this data. For context, 1.84m speeding offences were recorded nationally in 2020, and 2.67m in pre-Covid 2019, although these numbers include drivers caught by police officers, as well as cameras.

With the most common result of being caught speeding three penalty points and a £100 fine, and taking into account the fact that around 50% of detected drivers take speed awareness courses (this sees drivers pay a fee for the course, not a penalty), carwow estimates the revenue from the speed cameras it has information on totalled around £391 million from 2018-22, with this money being paid into the central Treasury’s Consolidated fund, which has previously been described as “central Government’s current account”.

Another detail confirmed by carwow’s investigation is the fact that in some instances police will rotate actual speed-camera equipment through multiple ‘housings’: IE what appears as a speed camera may in some cases actually be an empty metal box, in which camera electronics can be placed and removed.

Merseyside Police, for example, told us it has 14 actual camera “devices” that it rotates through 52 locations. Similarly, Police Scotland said it has 74 fixed cameras including 47 GATSO cameras, but noted: “GATSO fixed speed cameras are rotated around a number of housings/sites and there are more GATSO camera housings/sites than GATSO fixed speed cameras.”

Separately, National Highways, which runs the country’s motorways and major A-roads, said that between 2020 and 2022 it spent £18.19 million with speed-camera companies such as Truvelo and Jenoptik but it was not able to separate camera maintenance from these costs, as they included “other work” such as unplanned events like the impact of vehicle fires, and “traffic management costs”. As such, National Highways’ costs are not included in our figures.

Commenting on carwow’s investigation, Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said: “Drivers accept the role of speed cameras and acknowledge that they need to be maintained in order to keep catching those breaking the law.

“However, cameras can only do so much, and there is an argument that the cash would be better spent on providing more cops in cars. Not only does this provide a physical deterrent, but allows forces to stop speeding drivers in their tracks and investigate if there is more behind their behaviour, such as drink or drug driving.”

Transport for London said: “Speed enforcement is an investment in safer roads rather than a way of raising revenue and Fixed Penalty Notices are an effective way of tackling speeding, which is a factor in around half of fatal collisions in London.” TfL added that while penalty revenue went to the Treasury, some income from speed awareness courses was returned to help run London’s speed-camera network.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council commented that “speeding is an offence we take extremely seriously”, adding: “Speed cameras play an integral role in keeping our roads safer, and it is imperative that they are maintained properly to ensure the overarching purpose of improving safety and saving lives is achieved.”