`Frozen' signs lead to car park chaos

AN urgent meeting was taking place today in an effort to resolve the technical difficulties that caused most of York's intelligent traffic signs to crash at the weekend.
The variable message signs (VMS), which display information about the number of spaces in the city's car parks, were struck by a virus on Saturday afternoon causing 21 of them - those situated directly outside car parks - to freeze.

It meant that motorists were directed into car parks that they believed had spaces, only to find that they were in fact full. One motorist said there were real problems at St George's Field Car Park on Saturday afternoon.

He said: "It is always busy there on a Saturday, but there was a bigger queue of traffic trying to get out of there than I have ever seen.

"The sign they must have passed on the way in told them that there were 349 spaces."

Peter Evely, City of York Council's head of network management, said that the problem did not affect the nine free-text information signs that are situated on major routes into the city.

He said: "The system crashed, unfortunately, and the signs froze. It took us quite a while to get them unglued, but we managed to do that this morning.

"It was right the way across the city but we certainly didn't have major problems with traffic congestion. What we had in a number of places was high levels of irritation."

Mr Evely said the council was meeting software suppliers Tennet and hardware suppliers Variable Message today to discuss the problem and ensure that if it happened again the boards can be blanked out.

He said the was the first of its kind in the world and it was still experiencing teething problems.

Len Cruddas, chief executive of York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said that if using York's car parks created a high level of irritation it was a problem for the whole of the city.

He said: "We probably got away with it because the system is still new and people are not used to using it.

"Let's get this bug ironed out and get it fully functional as soon as possible."

In August the L1.5 million system, which was launched in July, had to be turned off for a number of days after a similar problem occurred.
Yorkshire Evening Press
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