TUNNEL CAMERAS TO BE SPEED CAMERAS
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Speed cameras will be switched on in the Saltash Tunnel before the end of the year.
Eight digital cameras were installed in the A38 tunnel in 2004 to monitor the speed of the 50,000 vehicles using the route every day.
But persistent speeding above the 30mph limit means the cameras tracking traffic through the 408-metre tunnel will now be used to catch the culprits.
The Highways Agency already has Government approval and is finalising a new signs scheme before the system goes live. A spokesman stressed that the move was not to 'raise revenue' but to ensure the safety of motorists.
Speed cameras are normally introduced to combat accident blackspots. But there has never been a serious accident in the Saltash Tunnel since it opened.
South East Cornwall MP Colin Breed said the public would regard the cameras as "a cash cow" for the Government.
The Highways Agency spokesman said: "We have talked to the Department for Transport and explained the unique nature of the Saltash Tunnel and they have agreed that it would be sensible to have enforcement cameras. We have overcome that hurdle.
"What we now have to make sure is that the road leading into and out of the tunnel complies with all the regulations, mainly around signage."
He said there was no exact timetable for the switch-on but said it would "definitely" be within the next twelve months.
The speed limit in the tunnel has been progressively reduced from 50mph when it first opened in 1988 to 40mph and then to the current 30mph. That was linked to the lessons learned from disastrous crashes in tunnels in Europe where relatively minor accidents escalated because of fire and smoke dangers.
The 30mph limit - and now speed cameras - have also been deemed necessary because the tunnel has three unseparated lanes and a traffic tidal flow system.
Latest figures from the Highways Agency show that 73.9 per cent of motorists exceeded the limit.
If every speeding motorist was issued with a £60 ticket, the cameras would raise £2.25 million each day. That would pay for the tunnel's last £8.25 million revamp in just three-and-a-half days.
Mr Breed said: "There is no justification for this at all. We have never had a serious accident in the tunnel even though there are three lanes. It is a total and utter nonsense.
"If this carries on, in ten years' time we?ll end up with a man carrying a red flag in front of the traffic."