Cabot Circus news
Inside Bristol's traffic control centre
Bristol's new traffic control centre went live a week before the multi-million pound Cabot Circus shopping centre opens to the public.
The high-tech facility allows the council to monitor more than 200 cameras and help traffic flow in the city.
The centre, tucked away down a side street in St Pauls, features a giant bank of LCD screens showing some of the hundreds of cameras dotted around Bristol.
All of the cameras are linked back to St Pauls through a fibre-optic network beneath the city's streets.
The city has had an Urban Traffic Centre since the 1980s, but the latest version is the most sophisticated to date.
The cameras, though, are just the start of what the Traffic Control Centre can do.
Officers can monitor 200 cameras
Information from sensors which monitor how many cars pass certain points is also fed back into a computer.
The computer can monitor the flow of cars, buses and lorries and alter signals to allow traffic to flow more freely.
But even the most sophisticated computer system lacks a human touch - which is where the traffic managers come in.
Terry Bullock, one of those managers, explained: "Inevitably we do end up with vehicles breaking down and we can pick that up on the cameras.
"Then we can intervene manually to alter the signal timings as best we can. If congestion does occur we try our best to cure it."
Mr Bullock, though, says intervention is a rare thing thanks to a computer that remembers and reacts.
The centre first opened in the 1980s
"The computers are far more powerful and can react far quicker than we can ourselves.
"And they do build up memories over the days and weeks, so when we get an influx of traffic they can adjust themselves automatically."
Taghi Massoumi, the manager of the new centre, says the centre has improved dramatically in the past decade.
"When I started in '92 we only had 12 monitors covering certain parts of the city - just the city centre and arterial routes.
"We couldn't see much of the traffic between critical places but now we have every stretch of road covered by cameras.
"It is a lot of help because when we have congestion or a queue building ... we use our integrated traffic system to reduce the congestion and delays."
last updated: 16/09/2008 at 11:47