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National Roads Telecommunications Services Project

Volume 460: debated on Thursday 24 May 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the (a) purpose and (b) budget is of the National Roads Telecommunications Services Project. (137708)

The Highways Agency's national telecommunications network has reached the end of its useful life, is costly to maintain, needs modernising and has insufficient capacity to meet its future known requirements. The National Roads Telecommunications Project (NRTS) has been developed to remedy this.

The existing networks transmit messages between the Agency's regional control centres and 14,000 devices on the roadside such as CCTV cameras and variable messages signs. The 32 networks have been built over the last thirty years to the Agency's bespoke designs. The NRTS project is to upgrade those existing transmission networks and to combine them into one. As well as providing additional capacity, the new digital network provides resilience: using internet technology, messages will automatically re-route following any break in the network. The new technology is freely available in the market-place, making it easier to maintain.

An end-to-end capability across the whole of England gives the network operator single point responsibility and a 10-year contract incentivises him to consider the whole life costs and to consider the whole of the network when planning improvements .

The committed cost is £490 million.