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Frequently asked questions

Who is responsible for operating and maintaining traffic signal installations in Surrey?

Permanent traffic signals on:

  • public roads in Surrey are generally the responsibility of Surrey County Council,
  • motorway or trunk roads (such as the A3, M23, M3 and M25. Also some parts of A23 and A30) are the responsibility of the Highways England (previously known as Highways Agency),

Temporary / portable traffic signals are not the responsibility of Surrey County Council. Faults on temporary signals should be reported to the appropriate contractor whose details can be found via the Report It page.

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What happens once a fault has been reported?

If it is one of Surrey County Council’s traffic signals, we would check whether we are already aware of the fault and then carry out investigations as required to establish what is required to remedy the fault. The time taken to resolve any fault will be dependent on the type and complexity of the fault.

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How do we decide which faults to repair first and how long will it usually take to repair?

Faults have priority levels depending on their impact on safety or the efficient operation of the traffic signals. Urgent faults are attended on the same day. Other faults are prioritised depending on the severity.

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How do traffic signals operate?

The signal control equipment uses information from vehicle detectors, located either in the carriageway surface, or a small box mounted above the signals, to assess the current traffic flow and determine the appropriate vehicle green time for particular approaches. Traffic signal junctions and pedestrian crossings can operate independently from each other but in some urban areas traffic signal junctions may be coordinated with each other where there are several close together. Coordination of these sites is done by a central computer.

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Why were the traffic lights stuck on red?

It could be because an approaching vehicle has stopped short of or beyond the solid white stop line, which could mean that the vehicle is not detected and therefore the lights will not change, or the signals may take longer to change than normal because of a faulty detector. This may give the impression that the signals are stuck. This is especially noticeable during quiet periods such as night time.

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Can the signals show green in conflicting directions at the same time?

Traffic signals have built-in safety mechanisms, which would force the signals to shut down immediately, to ensure that this cannot happen. We sometimes receive reports of this, but this is usually because one vehicle has either jumped a red signal or taken longer than usual to pass through the junction.

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Why have the signal timings been changed / why have there been unusual delays recently?

It is rare for us to change the sequence or timings of traffic signal installations. If we do, we generally place signs to inform the public. Traffic signal timings should automatically adjust to accommodate day to day variations. Sudden or unusual delays could be due to additional traffic being diverted from elsewhere, equipment failure or damage to the vehicle detection (such as after road resurfacing). All faults are resolved as quickly as possible.

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Why does the right turn arrow not always operate?

It is important to operate all signals as efficiently as possible. Therefore, the right turn facility at many signals will only operate when there are enough queuing vehicles for the right turn. If the right turn green arrow does not appear but there is a full circular green showing, right turning vehicles may turn during safe gaps in the opposing traffic.

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Why are some signal aspects covered by louvres (a box with shutters or grid lines)?

This is a safety feature. Louvres are used to reduce the possibility of drivers viewing signals not intended for their approach to the signals. Examples include pedestrian crossings near large roundabouts or see-through problems on straight roads between traffic signals in close proximity.

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Why are there no audible indicators (bleepers) at some pedestrian crossings?

Audible indicators are not used if there is more than one signalised road crossing in close proximity to another that operate independently, as it may cause confusion for sight-impaired pedestrians. As an alternative, tactile (rotating cone) indicators are fitted beneath push button units on all pedestrian crossings in Surrey. These rotate when the steady Green Man is illuminated.

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Why is there not enough Green Man time to allow me to completely cross the road?

The steady Green Man is only meant as an "invitation to cross". Pedestrians are not necessarily expected to complete the whole crossing during that period. They also have the subsequent clearance time (e.g. flashing Green Man or "blank") during which to continue to cross. Drivers should not proceed until the crossing is clear, as advised in the Highway Code. For more information please see the next question (What are the different types of traffic signal pedestrian crossings?)

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Why does the push button demand (light) sometimes cancel itself after I pressed it?

Some types of crossings have “kerbside” detectors which detect pedestrians waiting at the crossing. When you press the button your presence is confirmed by this detector. If you move away from the 'waiting zone' before the Green Man runs the demand for the pedestrian phase (Green Man) is automatically cancelled. This is to reduce unnecessary delay to traffic when a pedestrian decides to cross without waiting for the Green Man.

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What are the different types of traffic signal pedestrian crossings?

Please note a steady Green Man is only meant as “invitation to cross” and you should still ensure that you can cross the road safely.

Apart from those at signal junctions there are four different types:

Pelican crossing – for pedestrians.
Pedestrians press the button and wait for the Green Man signal before they start to cross.
This is followed by the flashing Green Man indicating that pedestrians may continue to cross.
The flashing amber for vehicles operates at the same time, allowing vehicles to proceed, if the crossing is clear.

Puffin crossing - for pedestrians.
Puffins have special detectors, which detect pedestrians waiting at the crossing, and which can extend the crossing time. When a pedestrian presses the button their presence is confirmed by this detector. If a pedestrian moves away from the detection zone before the Green Man runs the demand for the pedestrian phase (Green Man) is automatically cancelled. This means that traffic is not unnecessarily delayed when a pedestrian decides to cross after pressing the button without waiting for the Green Man. Puffins do not have flashing Green Man / flashing vehicle amber. The Red and Green Man signal is usually positioned on the near side of the road. This allows the pedestrian to more easily monitor the approaching traffic, and it is closer for visually impaired pedestrians to view.

Toucan crossing – for pedestrians and mounted cyclists.
Essentially the same as a Puffin crossing as described above but shared with mounted cyclists. The Red Man / Green Man / Cycle signal is sometimes located on the far side of the crossing.

Pegasus crossing - for pedestrians and equestrians.
Essentially the same as a Puffin Crossing, but for equestrians – possibly sometimes alongside pedestrians or mounted cyclists. Sometimes referred to as an Equestrian Crossing.

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  • Updated: 19 Dec 2018

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