UK government to trial noise cameras in England and Wales this summer

The British government is going to trial noise cameras in several areas across the UK this summer to try to keep Britain's streets quieter.

Noise camera. - Viginoiz/Bruitparif

THE British government is set to trial noise cameras in four areas across the UK this summer, to monitor noise levels.

The noise cameras will be used in four areas of England and Wales, and “can automatically detect individual cars and bikes breaking noise limits,” according to the British Motorcyclists Federation (BMF). 

There is already limited use of noise cameras in Britain, for example in Westminster, where politicians operate in a separate reality. The BMF suggests that the trials in England and Wales set for this summer could be a precursor to a nationwide distribution of noise cameras.

Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport, is “inviting residents to lobby their MP to submit applications to take part,” according to the BMF. “We want those in Britain’s noisiest streets, who are kept up at night by unbearable revving engines and noisy exhausts, to come forward with the help of volunteer areas to test and perfect the latest innovative technology,” said Shapps. 

As has been the case quite often in recent times, the government finds itself incapable of actually doing anything itself, so it is asking the public to do its work on its behalf. 

Shapps’ idea is to “banish the boy racer,” but exactly how loud is a vehicle allowed to be? If you’re riding a 50cc scooter are you automatically getting a letter in the post and an extortionate fine the moment you twist the throttle? People who ride one-litre sports bikes are going to make noise. That is just reality. 

And, let us remember who Shapps is. The Transport Secretary responsible for Smart Motorways without hard shoulders; for train tickets that are more expensive than plane tickets; and for the lack of regulation of e-scooters, although that is set to change later this year. These have been objectively bad things and, as well as average speed cameras, have been - with the exception of the e-scooters - at least in part motivated by an opportunity to make money. Are we going to have variable nose limits for different times of the day? Or just limits that are impossibly low? Anything is possible, but perhaps it is better to wait and see before passing total judgement.

The positive side of these proposed noise cameras is that they might encourage people to go electric. But, the problem with that is that everything is getting more expensive, including electricity, but electric cars and bikes are not getting cheaper. The government subsidies for electric vehicles are relatively limited compared to Italy, for example, and the lack of public infrastructure for EVs means they are mostly impractical, and unaffordable, for a large proportion of the population. So, until going electric is affordable, you had better keep the revs below 1,500.

Images courtesy of Viginoiz/Bruitparif.