SPEED cameras – so often the cause of panic and even anger among drivers who may have been using the accelerator too liberally.

But are these cameras just set up to be a good earner for the police and enforcement agencies?

The Argus spoke to a representative from GoSafe, the road safety partnership responsible for speed camera enforcement.


GoSafe comprises Wales' 22 local authorities, its four police forces, and the Welsh Government.

“The majority of people comply with speed limits, and our cameras are there to encourage motorists to drive within the speed limit, so the most successful cameras are those which record the least number of offences – not the most," the GoSafe spokesman said. "Speed cameras were first deployed in the early '90s in order to reduce speeds and casualties on the roads.

"There are a variety of operations and campaigns which run alongside the traditional fixed- and mobile-camera enforcement, and today we have Community Speed Watch schemes and a number of requests from communities wishing to protect themselves against speeding motorists.

"The strategic aim of GoSafe is to make people safer on Welsh roads by reducing casualties and saving lives.”

­— Which types of speed camera can be found in Gwent?

Mobile Cameras

These speed cameras are housed within police vans and are set up on roadsides.

How and where they are deployed depends on the accident history and road safety problems at each location, the GoSafe website explains.

The website contains a map showing where mobile cameras can be located at any time – there are six possible locations near the centre of Newport, for example.

South Wales Argus: A fleet of GoSafe mobile speed camera vans, with police motorcycles. Picture: GoSafeA fleet of GoSafe mobile speed camera vans, with police motorcycles. Picture: GoSafe

The vans are police vehicles operated by police staff.

Cameras in the vans can also be used to check for drivers using a mobile phone or not wearing a seatbelt.

Fixed Cameras

The most well-known type of speed camera, housed in a distinctive yellow box. These cameras are set to a specific speed and will photograph any vehicles caught breaking the limit as they drive past.

There are six fixed cameras operated by GoSafe in Gwent, not including red light cameras (see below).

South Wales Argus: A fixed speed camera on the A4042 southbound, near Newport Castle. Picture: GoogleA fixed speed camera on the A4042 southbound, near Newport Castle. Picture: Google

One is in Newport, on the A4042 southbound near the castle, where the speed limit is 30mph.

Head east from Newport along the A48 and there are two more fixed cameras – one east of Langstone (40mph), and the other between Caerwent and Crick (50mph).

In Pontypool, a fixed camera (40mph) is located on the A472 west of the town centre.

Another fixed camera (30mph) is on the A468 (Newport Road) in Trethomas.

And in Gilfach, another fixed camera (30mph) can be found on Park Place.

Variable Speed Cameras

The variable speed limit zone runs for eight miles along the M4 around Newport, from Junction 28 (Tredegar Park) to near Junction 24 (Coldra).

The system is designed to keep traffic flowing on this busy stretch of motorway.

South Wales Argus: The start of the M4 variable speed limit zone, near J28 (Tredegar Park) on the eastbound carriageway. Picture: GoogleThe start of the M4 variable speed limit zone, near J28 (Tredegar Park) on the eastbound carriageway. Picture: Google

Comprising a series of overhead signs, the speed limit at each sign can be changed independently to gradually slow down traffic and make drivers travel at more constant, similar speeds.

In quieter conditions, the signs may be switched off, returning the maximum speed permitted to the normal 70mph motorway limit.

Each camera in the variable speed limit zone acts as an independent fixed camera, and when the overhead signs display a speed limit, the cameras mounted behind them automatically switch to the same speed.

South Wales Argus: Vehicles pass under one of the variable speed limit gantries on the M4 near J26 (Malpas). Picture: GoogleVehicles pass under one of the variable speed limit gantries on the M4 near J26 (Malpas). Picture: Google

A Freedom of Information request by the Argus found that more than 4,000 speeding drivers were caught by the variable speed cameras around Newport over a six-month period in 2018.

Average Speed Cameras

The average speed check zone around Newport has been replaced by the current variable speed limit zone, but you can still find some of this camera type – mounted on bright yellow posts – as you drive into Wales on the M4 Prince of Wales Bridge.

The most common type of average speed camera uses number-plate recognition to track vehicles passing in front of it.

South Wales Argus: Average speed cameras. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA WireAverage speed cameras. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Subsequent cameras along the same stretch of road record the time each vehicle takes to pass them, and the average speed is then calculated to see if any drivers are breaking the limit.

Unlike variable speed cameras, one individual average speed camera cannot detect a vehicle's speed as it passes in front of it. It can only calculate the time a vehicle has taken to reach it.

Red Light Cameras

As the name suggests, these cameras catch drivers who run red lights at junctions.

There are seven red-light traffic cameras operated by GoSafe in Gwent.

Four are in Newport – two on the eastern end of the George Street Bridge, and three on Malpas Road at the junction with Bettws Lane.

South Wales Argus: The red light camera on George Street bridge (eastbound). Picture: GoogleThe red light camera on George Street bridge (eastbound). Picture: Google

There are also two in Pontypool, where Rockhill Road meets Fountain Road.

Another variation of this camera also works as a speed camera when the lights change to green, but there aren't currently any of this type of camera in Gwent.

­— What are some of the myths surrounding speed cameras?

  • Some cameras are 'out of film', meaning speeding drivers won't get caught.

GoSafe: "We have been working with our partners on a staggered upgrade of all cameras from film to digital technology since 2012.

"The only cameras which are not live will have a sticker on the back to inform the public that they are not in use."

South Wales Argus: A fixed camera marked 'not in use'. Picture: GoSafeA fixed camera marked 'not in use'. Picture: GoSafe

  • If a camera van isn’t parked within a certain distance from a speed camera sign, you can’t be fined.

GoSafe: "There is no legal requirement and there has never been a legal requirement for speed camera signs to be present for enforcement to take place.

"Safety camera signs may be displayed on routes leading to sites where cameras operate, but please note that the absence of a camera sign does not invalidate an offence."

  • If the driver of a speeding vehicle can’t be identified in a photograph, nobody can be punished for the offence.

GoSafe: "A Notice of Intended Prosecution will be sent to the registered keeper of the offending vehicle.

"The registered keeper has a legal obligation under section 172 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 to supply the name and address of the driver at the time of the alleged offence.

"Stating that you do not know who the driver was is not a valid argument, and could result in the driver facing prosecution for failing to supply the information, which results in the court imposing a higher penalty than is currently received for a speeding offence."

  • Speed camera vans are not MoT'd.

GoSafe: "We get a lot of people note down the [number plate] of our vans and search the DVLA website to see if they are MoT’d. It often comes up in the search as not having an MoT.

"However, police vehicles fall under category (i) of vehicles that are exempt from declarations of MoT.

"All our vehicles are maintained to a high standard by our Vehicles Management Unit."

  • In the M4 variable speed limit zone, if speed changes on one of the signs changes, there is no 'grace period' before the camera switches to the new speed.

GoSafe: "When a mandatory speed limit changes on the overhead signal, there is an automatic delay before enforcement commences against the newly displayed limit."