London Congestion Charge advanced ANPR camera test

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Transport for London seem to be testing some more advanced Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras, controversially ahead of the actual decision to proceed with the proposed westward extension of the London Congestion Charge zone.

Thanks to the C.N.U.T. - Congestion charge Nefarious Underhand Tax for drawing this Evening Standard article to our attention:

Trials for super-spy cameras By David Williams Motoring Editor, Evening Standard 17 June 2005

Secret trials of cameras for the extension to the congestion charge zone are under way.

Powerful new digital cameras are being tested at two sites.

They can read thousands of number plates in minutes

Officials say the trials are vital to ensure that if the westward extension is approved by Mayor Ken Livingstone, the new cameras are ready to go.

But critics say the scale of the trials suggest the extension is poised to proceed despite widespread opposition.

Critics question why the trials are going ahead when the decision on extending the zone will not be made until September.

They say the earliest it can be rolled out to Kensington and Chelsea is 2007 - by which time the technology could be dated.

One Transport for London (TfL) insider said: "The extension-might not have been approved but it looks as though it is going to go ahead. These are heavy-duty trials. It seems it is being steamrollered through."

[see photos below]

The cameras have been installed in west London on the A312 Hampton Road West near Apex Corner and on Commercial Street in east London, between Wentworth Street and Pomell Way.

Note how neither of these Automatic Number Plate recognition camera test sites is located in the actual Westward Expansion Zone, in Kensington and Chelsea, which seems to be a sneaky way of not consulting the local residents and commuters.

They are more powerful than the CCTV cameras enforcing the ?5 charge - soon to rise to ?8 - in central London. Officials are testing accuracy as the cameras read thousands of number plates in quick succession; they are said to be highly impressed.

The units use digital technology instead of the analogue system in the existing zone. They are more accurate and are not affected by the weather. Insiders say they can zoom in with far greater clarity than any previous-traffic camera, and they are believed to be able to read foreign plates.

TfL insists it has no plan to charge for motorcycles but the devices are better at reading the square plates on two-wheelers.

The cameras are linked to computer software that analyses images quickly.

It will reduce the time officials spend visually scanning images of number plates, to check that the computer has correctly read them.

It is not "officials" who do this, it is private sector employees of Crapita plc, which earns as much revenue from its cut of the Fixed Penalty Notice fines as it does from the £5 daily charge itself - a financial disincentive to provide proper levels of customer service and to run the scheme fairly and compassionately. The system design for the orginal Congestion Charge Scheme is flawed in so many ways, especially the reliance on centralised processing of the images, which leads to lots of potential privacy and security problems.

A TfL spokesman insisted that no decision had been made on extending the congestion charge westwards.

He said: "We started the procurement for the western zone should it get the go-ahead, and we are seeing what technology is available. We have to make sure it works in practice."

TfL confirmed the cameras were filming, but all images were deleted immediately."

The usual Transport for London weasel words.

Just as with the controversial existing London Congestion Charge scheme they claim not to store theimages of number plates and vehicles/drivers. Note how they do not say anything about the number plate, time, date and location logfiles, which are produced after the ANPR equipment has done its image recognition. How long are these logfiles retained for ? Are they anonymised or are they looked up on the Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency database ? Who has access to this data ?

Click on the images for a larger versionWest London test site: Hampton Road West near Apex corner
3)sets_of_cameras_1.jpgThree sets of cameras. The rightmost set is just a pair of forward and backward facing traffic cameras
ANPR_Siemens_1.jpg First set of Automatic Number Plate Recogintion cameras, with Siemens marked on the housings
ANPR_B_!.jpg Second set of Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras. The top most object on the pole is a wind speed monitor. The top two cameras in rectangular housings have infrared (Light Emitting Diode ?) spotlights mounted under them. The leftmost camera housing either has a blanking plate and might contain the image processing computer or it just might be temporarily non-functional
ANPR_B_2.jpg There are no obvious pavement side control cabinets as with the existing Congestion Charge system.

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From Spyblogs London Congestion Charge advanced ANPR camera test: The UK is moving ahead with using ANPR as a method of collecting toll fees. I don't think its happened yet in the US, but as the technology improves its... Read More


good. most journeys in central london are on foot and public transport.

Livingstone is making life better and safer for the majority of people. If a majority of Evening Standard 'journalists' disagree, that does not make it wrong!

Ken Livingstone's orginal scheme has not produced the revenue for re-investment in public transport that he promised, only excessive profits for Capita plc.

Creating an even bigger ANPR mass surveillance system is not necessary for Road or Congestion charging per se.

Livingstone is making people's life easier? Are you high on glue, or just plain naïve? Perhaps you're just another of the Mayor's pitty lackeys?

Since this mayor came to power, London public transport is more expensive and has not improved at all -- NOT ONE IOTA.

Not only are things more expensive, but this mayor seems to penalize people in order to fund his administration. Take the case of the C-charge fine for example: If you don't pay it by 22:00 on the same day you travelled through Central London, you get a fine. Well, perhaps he should drop the cut-off period to 18:00. Then he could get more fines to fund his stupid administration. This is after all what the c-charge is all about, isn't it?

Hey, with all the money from fines, perhaps he could host his own Olympics in his back garden!

I've only been to central London once by car since the charge came in. I made sure my friend bought me a ticket which he did and he gave me.

Look what happened. For whatever reaon the ticket didn't register on the system. Two months later I got a letter of a fine. I didn't still have the ticket but phoned up telling them I'd go to court if necessary. I was told to fill in a form (witnessed by a magistrate) which I did. Now they've wheel clamped my car and want over £500 to release it!!!!!

I think there are far too many cars in cities but this is not a good way to go about it. £500 is far too much and there is no way to pay bit by bit(so it penalizes those on low income). I am on incapacity benefit - £56 per week after an accident in June. But I'm told I have to pay the whole lot in one go or they will take my car (current value around £10,000). All this for a £5 ticket which I bought and have a witness to.

Essentially this punishing someone before they've been proven guilty.

Well I think that the C-Charging extension is a good thing as I am a Siemens employee and I live outside London.......

it is impossible to drive at 30mph for the duration of your journey, the limit should be set at40mph max.we are growny up people after all, you have to be to get a licence. its only car thieves that that break the law. ( and none UK citizens or foreign cars).the goverment must stop turning this country onto a "policed state", the goverment and the police force is fast becoming its worste enemy! the spy camera is the thing of the past!. MOVE ON........

Siemens Traffic Controls seems to have been awarded the contract for the Westward Expansion of the London Congestion Charge.

"Transport for London awards £60 million contract to Siemens

3 October 2005

Siemens has been awarded a £60 million (€88 million) contract by Transport for London (TfL) to run until 2016. The contract is to provide camera and automatic number plate reading enforcement infrastructure for the western extension of the Central London Congestion Charging Scheme.

Siemens Traffic Controls will supply, operate and maintain the system, which involves the installation of over 850 automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras at 127 sites. The cameras will capture details of an estimated 1 million number plates every day.

Representing a considerable step forward over existing technology, the Siemens solution, incorporating technology from Roke Manor Research Ltd and PIPS Technology Ltd, will process vehicle number plate information at the roadside, reducing both the communications bandwidth required and the cost of the communications infrastructure.

The Western Extension Zone project will see London’s current congestion charge area extended in a westerly direction into Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea. Work will now begin on the new scheme which is scheduled to be effective from February 2007. Siemens will operate and maintain the enforcement infrastructure until 2016.

Siemens Traffic Controls managing director David Carter said: "Siemens has been associated with the supply of traffic technology and services in London for many years, and we are delighted to be working with TfL on such a prestigious project. We are confident our proven technology and technical expertise will contribute towards the successful development of the scheme, and will further help Transport for London with their on-going efforts to reduce congestion in the capital.""

Hopefully the bit about "will process vehicle number plate information at the roadside, reducing both the communications bandwidth required and the cost of the communications infrastructure." might possibly mean that this system could be a bit more privacy friendly than the orginal central London scheme, which grabs images of evey vehicle and sends them to a cental point for processing and possible privacy abuse.

What both schemes should be doing is *only* recording the details of non-payers and any difficult to read or interpret images.

"Roadside processing" might solve this huge privacy abuse, but we will try to find out whether the new system will "save bandwidth" by merely sending processed text files or messages "innocent" number plates rather than full video images.


In the past when there have been shortages the custom to overcome the problem was to use "Rationing". Road congestion could be viewed as a "shortage of road space" so why not, instead of charging to use the road space, ration its use by giving everyone, based on some form of predetermined criteria, an allowance of road use. Roads could be given a different weighting depending on their "stragetic" importance, traffic volumes and/or time of day. Those who don't use up their allowance for whatever reason would then be able to sell their unused portion to those that need more. It would negate the stealth tax argument and potentially financially benefit those who use the roads the least. More importantly it would limit road use at a predetermined level whereas a system based on simply buying road use would not necessarily have the desired result.

Implementation would be fairly easy with a car mounted satalite linked unit taking a plastic credit card loaded with your ration allowance. Use would be deducted from the card which could be topped up at any ATM on a monthly basis with your free allowance and would give the added opportunity to purchase additional use or sell unused units.

Quite how the system could be protected from fraudlent use is beyond me but can be sure there must be an "electronic way" especially if there is a will.

Has anyone seen new cameras on A312 between White Hart roundabout and Hayes bypass,both way, on A40 near hoover building Tesco, on A40 between Savoy Circus and White City.

Does anyone know what are these cameras? speed cameras or Automated number recognation cameras?

hi, i have seen new cameras on the north circular. are they anpr cameras or some thing else they have been around for the last few weeks, what are they for, has anyone else seen these cameras?

These sound like the new Low Emission Zone Charge enforcement cameras - yes another set of ANPR cameras which will be monitoring the vast majority of road users who are not directly concerned with the scheme i.e. who are not commercial vehicle operators or who do not drive the special targets of NuLabour Ken Livingstone's "green" hypocrisy such as 4x4 "Chelsea tractor" vehicles.

No doubt this mass surveillance data will be slurped up by the Police surveillance state, just as is currently happening with the Congestion Charge bulk real time data, even though this sorrt of mass surveillance is illegal under RIPA.

List of Maps (.pdf some vey large files)

The Low Emission Zone (LEZ) covers most of Greater London following the Greater London Authority boundary, and will operate every day of the year from 4 February 2008.

The Low Emission Zone will be clearly identifiable by signs at entrance points:

All public roads, including certain motorways (except the M25) within the boundary are included within the LEZ.

Following the approval of the Secretary of State for Transport, the following motorways are included: M1 south of London Gateway Services; M4 east of Junction 3 and the M4 spur to Heathrow.

You can check if your (mostly diesel) vehicle will be subject to the LEZ Charge here (asks for "Vehicle Registration Mark" i.e. Number Palte and vehicle make):

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Free Gary McKinnon - UK citizen facing extradition to the USA for "hacking" over 90 US Military computer systems.

Parliament Protest - information and discussion on peaceful resistance to the arbitrary curtailment of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, in the excessive Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area around Parliament Square in London.

Brian Burnell's British / US nuclear weapons history at

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Follow Spy Blog on Twitter

For those of you who find it convenient, there is now a Twitter feed to alert you to new Spy Blog postings.

Please bear in mind the many recent, serious security vulnerabilities which have compromised the Twitter infrastructure and many user accounts, and Twitter's inevitable plans to make money out of you somehow, probably by selling your Communications Traffic Data to commercial and government interests. (same window)

Recent Comments

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UK Legislation

The United Kingdom suffers from tens of thousands of pages of complicated criminal laws, and thousands of new, often unenforceable criminal offences, which have been created as a "Pretend to be Seen to Be Doing Something" response to tabloid media hype and hysteria, and political social engineering dogmas. These overbroad, catch-all laws, which remove the scope for any judicial appeals process, have been rubber stamped, often without being read, let alone properly understood, by Members of Parliament.

The text of many of these Acts of Parliament are now online, but it is still too difficult for most people, including the police and criminal justice system, to work out the cumulative effect of all the amendments, even for the most serious offences involving national security or terrorism or serious crime.

Many MPs do not seem to bother to even to actually read the details of the legislation which they vote to inflict on us.

UK Legislation Links

UK Statute Law Database - is the official revised edition of the primary legislation of the United Kingdom made available online, but it is not yet up to date.

UK Commissioners

UK Commissioners some of whom are meant to protect your privacy and investigate abuses by the bureaucrats.

UK Intelligence Agencies

Intelligence and Security Committee - the supposedly independent Parliamentary watchdog which issues an annual, heavily censored Report every year or so. Currently chaired by the Conservative Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Why should either the intelligence agencies or the public trust this committee, when the untrustworthy ex-Labour Minister Hazel Blears is a member ?

Anti-terrorism hotline - links removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

MI5 Security Service
MI5 Security Service - links to encrypted reporting form removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

syf_logo_120.gif Secure Your Ferliliser logo
Secure Your Fertiliser - advice on ammonium nitrate and urea fertiliser security

cpni_logo_150.gif Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure
Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure - "CPNI provides expert advice to the critical national infrastructure on physical, personnel and information security, to protect against terrorism and other threats."

SIS MI6 careers_logo_sis.gif
Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) recruitment.

Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ

National Crime Agency - the replacement for the Serious Organised Crime Agency

Defence Advisory (DA) Notice system - voluntary self censorship by the established UK press and broadcast media regarding defence and intelligence topics via the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee.

Foreign Spies / Intelliegence Agencies in the UK

It is not just the UK government which tries to snoop on British companies, organisations and individuals, the rest of the world is constantly trying to do the same, regardless of the mixed efforts of our own UK Intelligence Agencies who are paid to supposedly protect us from them.

For no good reason, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office only keeps the current version of the London Diplomatic List of accredited Diplomats (including some Foreign Intelligence Agency operatives) online.

Presumably every mainstream media organisation, intelligence agency, serious organised crime or terrorist gang keeps historical copies, so here are some older versions of the London Diplomatic List, for the benefit of web search engine queries, for those people who do not want their visits to appear in the FCO web server logfiles or those whose censored internet feeds block access to UK Government websites.

Campaign Button Links

Watching Them, Watching Us - UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.

FreeFarid_150.jpg - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond
Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
Data Retention is No Solution - Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

Open Rights Group

The Big Opt Out Campaign - opt out of having your NHS Care Record medical records and personal details stored insecurely on a massive national centralised database.

Tor - the onion routing network
Tor - the onion routing network - "Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."

Tor - the onion routing network
Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress and Tor - useful Guide published by Global Voices Advocacy with step by step software configuration screenshots (updated March 10th 2009).

Amnesty International's campaign

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team."

Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

Icelanders are NOT terrorists ! - despite Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling's use of anti-terrorism legislation to seize the assets of Icelandic banks.

No CCTV - The Campaign Against CCTV


I'm a Photographer Not a Terrorist !


Power 2010 cross party, political reform campaign


Cracking the Black Box - "aims to expose technology that is being used in inappropriate ways. We hope to bring together the insights of experts and whistleblowers to shine a light into the dark recesses of systems that are responsible for causing many of the privacy problems faced by millions of people."


Open Rights Group - Petition against the renewal of the Interception Modernisation Programme

wblogocrop_150.jpg - Fighting for justice for whistleblowers