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Top performance with new poles

Sapa Coventry pole: With its raise-and-lower option, the new traffic signal pole eliminates the need for heavy equipment during installation or maintenance.


Top performance with new poles

In the past, when the signals team needed to change a lamp or service a traffic signal pole, traffic was often disrupted as lanes or roads had to be closed. The process also required hiring traffic management and a cherry picker (an elevated work platform) to reach the top of the pole. The task posed serious risks to workers’ health and safety.

“It cost us anywhere from 1,000 to 7,000 British pounds just to replace a lamp costing under one pound,” says Sunil Budhdeo, transport innovation manager at the Coventry City Council. “It was also extremely dangerous, and you can never put a price on someone’s life.”

Traffic poles that can be raised and lowered

The health and safety risks and costs were pretty much eliminated when the Coventry City Council’s signals team, together with Sapa, developed a new traffic pole that could be raised and lowered.

Instead of using ladders to change a lamp or carry out routine maintenance, the hinged raise-and-lower option on the new poles enables the column to be winched down to any angle required. The operator can then carry out the required repairs at ground level and away from the flow of traffic.

The traffic signal poles themselves require no maintenance, Budhdeo says. “With powder-coated color of your choice or brushed aluminium, the risk of rusting poles and damage to plastic coating is reduced, giving the pole a longer life.”

The new poles are safe as well. “All of our -columns are crash-tested, and safety has not been compromised by this new design and extra features,” says business development executive Paul Scrace of Sapa Pole Products. “From a cost and health-and-safety point of view, the new pole ticks all the boxes.”

Safer, but also easier to install

Besides the safety elements, which meet all of Coventry’s criteria, the poles are easy to install. “You normally need immense mechanical equipment to install six- and eight-meter poles, but the new poles can be installed simply with one person and require no major equipment, so you save on installation costs,” Budhdeo says. 

The new pole came about quite by chance when the Coventry team was on the lookout for a collapsible column for its CCTV cameras. Sapa already had a product for street lighting with a hinge that made it collapsible, and the two partners started talking.

“They [Sapa] brought a street lighting sample over, and the engineering of that particular hinge was absolutely fantastic,” Budhdeo says. “We saw a possibility for a traffic signal pole and started developing it together. The rest is history.”

Today the poles are manufactured to drop to the right at 90 degrees or to the left at 270 degrees to make installation easier. Contractors must stipulate which version they want manufactured. Budhdeo would like to work with Sapa to create a standard pole that collapses in the most popular position and angle in order to suit the industry. “Achieving this will bring down the cost of manufacturing,” he says.

Coventry’s traffic signal poles have been a hit in the UK, Budhdeo says. “There’s been huge interest in this particular product. The poles may be slightly dearer than normal poles, but the benefits far outweigh the costs.”

Text: Cari Simmons
Photo: Getty Images