MORE than 4,000 drivers have been caught speeding along the M4 around Newport in the last six months, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed.

Between August 31, 2018, and January 31 this year, the overhead variable speed cameras between M4 junctions 24 (Coldra) and 28 (Tredegar Park) caught 4,068 motorists exceeding the speed limit.

Reacting to the FOI results, GoSafe – the organisation which maintains the variable camera network on the M4 around Newport – said the figures were evidence only a minority of drivers on that stretch of road broke the speed limit.

The variable speed cameras, set up in September 2016, are by default set to 70 miles per hour – the normal motorway limit – and may not display any speed limit.

However, they can be switched automatically or remotely to lower speeds, either as a traffic-calming measure or when there is congestion or an incident ahead.

When this happens, the lower speed limit displayed on the electronic boards is mandatory.

The speed cameras located on the overhead rigging will then automatically begin recording drivers travelling at the speed limit displayed on the electronic boards.

In this sense, the variable cameras differ from the yellow average speed cameras which used to be dotted along the M4. Rather than measuring a vehicle's speed along the entire stretch of motorway around Newport, the current system comprises a series of individual cameras which measures the speed of the vehicles travelling past them.

The difference can be confusing, and GoSafe has published on its website a comprehensive guide to the scheme, along with answers to motorists' frequently-asked questions.

But despite this information, and despite the variable cameras being a permanent fixture around Newport for two-and-a-half years, the FOI results show plenty of drivers are still getting caught.

On an average day during that six-month period, 22 motorists were snapped by the speed cameras and later fined, docked points on their licence, or both.

But when asked whether the variable speed cameras zone was providing an effective deterrent to speeding drivers, a GoSafe spokesman said the motorway around the M4 carried tens of thousands of vehicles, showing only a fraction of road users broke the limit.

He added: "We never assess the success of our sites on offence numbers, and not all of the 4,086 drivers caught will have been issued with a fine, which would result in revenue being directed to the Treasury. Many of these drivers would have been offered a speed awareness course."