£1m project on North East’s busiest highways


A £1m project supported by the Department for Transport has seen a network of 27 electronic Variable Message Signs (VMS) go live across some of the busiest highways in Tyneside.

Designed, manufactured and installed by SWARCO Traffic, the signs will give motorists key information to help them plan their journeys and warn them of weather disruption and other potential hazards.


Newcastle was the contracting body acting for the North East Combined Authority (NECA) but signs were also installed in Sunderland, Gateshead, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Northumberland.

Scheme designers and SWARCO Traffic worked closely together to determine the optimum locations for the signs, based on when drivers require the information and where would provide the maximum visibility.

A particular challenge was the installation of a large sign on the Gateshead approach to the Redheugh Bridge crossing of the Tyne.  

Brian McFarlane, project manager at SWARCO Traffic, said: 'We had to take down the existing life-expired sign, modify the gantry superstructure, and then install the new sign during overnight road closures.

'Existing structure for the gantry had to be surveyed and new support structure engineered. Works had to be postponed until A1 bypass works had been completed with night closure of the A189 required.'

SWARCO was also responsible for managing the associate civil engineering works and the installation of permanent roadside barriers. It will maintain the signs for the next seven years.

The news follows the launch of SWARCO's Smart City Messenger, a new generation of mobile VMS with built-in UTMC connectivity to afford local authorities the same level of management and control as their fixed installations. The sign can also be controlled from a SWARCO back office system and comes with a new fuel cell power back-up.

Carl Dyer, technical and sales director, said: 'The mobile signs have three power options: battery only, lasting seven days before recharge; solar powered, to allow for self-charging; and solar powered with a fuel cell that delivers 100% autonomy and 365 days of operation.

'This takes the flexibility and reliability of mobile signs to a new level, and overcomes one of the biggest headaches in deploying any mobile technology – the reliability of power supply.'

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