When City Hall announced back in June that it was extending the Ultra-Low Emission Zone up to the North and South Circular boundary from 2021, it said the decision would affect “100,000 cars, 35,000 vans and 3,000 lorries” each day which failed to comply with the zone’s engine emissions standards.
But what its press release failed to mention was that enforcing the zone would lead to a near trebling of the automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) images taken by Transport for London’s roadside cameras and processed by the agency’s contractors.
According to a recent document drawn up by MOPAC, the level of ANPR ‘reads’ (the taking of a picture) in London is set to rise from 12m to 21m per day over the next three years “chiefly due” to the expanded ULEZ and TfL’s need to install a further 672 cameras to enforce it.
TfL have confirmed MOPAC’s assessment of the increase.
The MOPAC document also states that nationally the number of reads is expected to be 160m per day by 2021, meaning London will account for 12.5% of the daily total.
TfL has stressed to me that a ‘read’ is not always a number plate – for example, in some cases the camera might mistake a cyclist for a car and take a picture – and points out that they only count the total number of images (a camera might take multiple photos of the same car if it’s sitting in a traffic queue) rather then unique number plates seen.
But even with those caveats, this marks a significant increase in the number of drivers snapped by TfL’s camera network which, with a total of 2,172 cameras post expansion, will be roughly double the size of the Metropolitan Police’s in-house fixed camera capability.
However there’s no need for the Met to be envious as Transport for London’s working assumption is the force will gain access to the extra cameras in line with the current arrangement which gives it automatic access to the data captured by the existing network.
The downside is all the extra data is going to cost the cash-strapped force around £550k a year to store.