A SmartWater solution is being applied to cables being laid along a 17-mile stretch of motorway between Junction 8 of the M60 near Sale and Junction 20 of the M62 near Rochdale as part of the smart motorway scheme, in order to reduce cable thefts from the UK’s road system.
The Highways Agency has announced that the “crime-fighting” liquid will be used on nearly 50 miles of cables due to be laid through underground pipes along the route.
Some metal cabling will be used to power CCTV equipment, as well as hi-tech equipment designed to cut congestion and improve journey times, by using variable speed limits on overhead message signs.
However, fibre-optic cables with low scrap value will mainly be used to power the new equipment – which includes around 1,000 lighting columns and full CCTV coverage.
SmartWater was invented by a former police officer and his chemist brother in 1993, says the Highways Agency.
The invisible liquid is only visible using ultra-violet light – and it also contains a unique forensic code, which can be used to “irrefutably prove ownership” and link criminals to a crime scene.
SmartWater is now being painted on cables, equipment and machinery being used for the smart motorway project.
The liquid is also widely used by major utilities and infrastructure companies to protect metal and deter thieves.
Highways England, Greater Manchester Police and SmartWater investigators are working in partnership to raise awareness of the project and help scrap dealers avoid buying stolen goods.
The Project Manager at Highways England, Paul Hampson, said:
“We’re investing millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on the smart motorway scheme in Greater Manchester, so it makes sense for us to do all we can to protect that investment.
“The technology we’re installing will help bring an end to the stop/start conditions many of us have experienced in rush hour traffic, by using variable speed limits to stop people slamming on their brakes when they reach queueing traffic, causing tailbacks behind them.
“We’re covering the cables and equipment being installed as part of the project with SmartWater – and warning thieves to stay away from the motorway as the police will be able to prove exactly where the metal came from if anyone’s caught trying to sell it on.”
Chief Executive of SmartWater, Phil Cleary, said:
“SmartWater has helped the police to secure hundreds of criminal convictions – and maintains a 100% conviction rate in court.
“By using it to protect motorway cable, Highways England is sending out a powerful warning to thieves.”
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