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Live Labs blog: Positive partnerships with West Midlands Police

23 March 2020

The Network Resilience Live Lab, led by Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), is focused on using innovative video analytics to lay the foundations for a smarter, better-connected and informed transport system across the West Midlands. 

The Live Lab fixed asset operations workstream is focused on using Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) camera technology to automatically analyse video to detect and determine traffic events such as average journey times. While this calls for close collaboration between TfWM and local authorities, the first few months of the programme has highlighted the importance of another key partner with a significant part to play in the success of its long-term objectives. 

West Midlands Police (WMP) plays an integral part in keeping our region’s roads running smoothly and already we are seeing opportunities for collaboration. They have been using ANPR successfully across the region to help identify individuals, not only for traffic offences but a range of other crimes. A recent trial using ANPR along the A34 in Birmingham - a key arterial route in the city – helped reveal the importance of communication between all stakeholders across the region and real synergies with WMP’s use of the technology.

Originally, we had planned to install all our new cameras along the relevant routes, however it soon became apparent that a collaboration with WMP would offer a cost-effective solution that benefitted us both. 

WMP granted TfWM permission to use their existing systems, allowing the ADEPT SMART Places Live Labs budget to be used more effectively and avoid some of the more costly and intrusive infrastructure installation. It also helped to avoid over-populating key routes with cameras, which may have had a negative impact on public perceptions of the project. WMP’s robust approach to public consultations surrounding ANPR and data-protection concerns is key to the project’s success. Our priority is to reassure the public that their privacy is not at risk and this technology is being used for public good that will create long term benefits for local people.

Working alongside WMP has helped to improve efficiency in terms of achieving quicker approvals for highways consents and drawing required power from lighting columns. When a request is backed by the police, organisations are often more obliging!

In return, the Network Resilience Live Lab team aims to aid WMP by developing an innovative, safe and sustainable transport system for the region.This will help to minimise disruption and keep the Midlands moving, particularly during upcoming major events such as the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. 

The next step will be to solidify this partnership by securing a service-level agreement with West Midlands Police and to continue building the relationship between key stakeholders, helping us to design a smart solution that benefits everyone. 

The project is already shaping up to be a fascinating and valuable learning experience for all involved, so we’re all excited to get the next phase underway.