The government has announced a new multimillion-pound initiative to improve traffic signals on smaller local roads. Councils across England will receive a share of £15 million to improve their traffic light systems in ways that will cut congestion, improve safety and reduce journey times.

However, councils will not only be expected to use the money to repair and improve existing traffic signals, but also “consider how to future-proof their local road networks”. The Department for Transport (DfT) wants the local authorities to invest in preparing UK roads for future “technical innovations”, although it isn’t entirely clear what those innovations might be.

At the same time, the DfT has also announced the development of a new data standard for local road condition monitoring, which is designed to let councils use “multiple technologies” to carry out road condition surveys for national reporting purposes. It’s hoped this upgrade will allow the government to collect data that is more accurate and therefore more useful.

Traffic lights in the centre of London at night

And the government also confirmed it would spend £100,000 on the Transport Technology Forum, an initiative designed to drive technological progress in traffic management. The DfT says the forum will bring road operators and suppliers together to combine their skills and knowledge.

“Whether you’re a motorist, cyclist or pedestrian, every road-user across our country deserves the best possible journey,” said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. “That’s why, despite already having some of the best and safest roads in the world, this government is providing millions of pounds to improve them further still.

“This vital funding and work will cut journey times for millions of people, reduce emissions and keep the UK at the forefront of technological developments in road maintenance as we continue to invest in local economies and build back both better and greener from the pandemic.”

Meanwhile the RAC Head of Roads Policy Nicholas Lyes said the news was welcome, and changes to traffic management could make a big difference to journeys.

“Additional investment to cut congestion and make pothole repairs better for the future is very welcome,” he said. “Improving traffic lights can make a significant difference to local roads by efficiently maximising the number of vehicles that can safely pass through junctions while hitting a pothole can be an expensive and even a dangerous experience. We look forward to seeing how drivers and road users more widely can benefit from the use of 21st-century technology to repair their local roads more quickly.”