Spinfish Publishing

Welcome to Spinfish Publishing

The  Highway Electrical Industry has been developing ever since the first carbon arc lights were installed in the 1870s. The development of the industry has been largely influenced by the increase in popularity of motorised road transport, and the commensurate need to ensure that roads are safe for the travelling public. Technical progress, social changes and an increase in the wealth of society has seen a rapid increase over the last few decades in the use of road transport. Highway electrical equipment has been more widely used to cope with the problems caused by greater use of the roads infrastructure, and the changing needs of society.

The various segments of the highway electrical market place are:

Illuminated Equipment
Street lighting, illuminated signs, illuminated bollards and beacons

Traffic Control Equipment
Traffic lights, pelican crossings

Communication Equipment
Motorway telephones, close circuit television and incident detection systems, variable message signs

The Illuminated Equipment segment is by far the largest sector of the market. With over seven million items of illuminated equipment throughout the United Kingdom, this sector is estimated to be valued at 450,000,000 per year. Over 50% of this sum is spent on energy and service charges to the public electricity supply company. Of the balance, 70% is spent on maintaining the infrastructure and the remainder on new projects.

Most highway illuminated equipment is owned by local authorities. The map below shows the numbers of lighting units (including illuminated signs etc.) in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Highways Agency owns equipment on motorways and trunk roads.




England Counties     2,436,275

Metropolitan Borough     1,581,857


London Borough        697,341


Unitaries     1,455,155

Highway Agency/TfL       227,212

Total in England    6,397,840

Scotland       1,033,596

Wales       476,357

Northern Ireland       294,761

Total in UK    8,202,554


Number of Lighting Units in the United Kingdom


Information on each individual authority is available in the Highway Electrical Industry Yearbook.

Traffic Control Equipment

It is estimated that there are a total of 210,000 traffic signals installed throughout England, Scotland and Wales representing a cost of 5.35 million per annum in maintenance and new installations.

 Back to top of page

Communication Equipment

Motorway telephones, variable message signs and close circuit television installations make up the bulk of this sector. The National Motorway Communication System (NMCS) has been developed and refined over a number of years and is continually being developed and upgraded. Primarily it provides essential emergency communications facilities to motorists travelling on the motorway network. Driver information systems utilising variable message signs have been a feature over the last few years, as a means of offering alternative routes and thereby avoiding areas of congestion which have been identified by incident detection systems such as CCT. Integrated computerised traffic control systems incorporating CCT and traffic signals ease the problems of city centre traffic flows.

Expenditure in this area is directly funded by government through the Highways Agency for England, the Welsh and Scottish Offices and the Department of Environment (NI).

The Market Today

The last year has been difficult for the industry as a result of significant increases in the cost of energy.  In the last 3 years electricity prices have increased by 100%.  The impact of these increases has been significant and in particular on local authorities who have been struggling to meet these increases.  The industry is now focussing on various measures which will reduce energy consumption and the consequential impact on budgets and carbon dioxide emissions.

The Private Finance Initiative (PFI) is proving to be a popular method of replacing old street lighting infrastructure in England.  There are 15 projects that have been procured and another 20 under consideration representing over 25% of the total lighting stock in the England. There are no PFI contracts in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Local Authorities

The majority of the lighting units in Great Britain are owned by local authorities. Most local authorities have separated their various operating functions in order to delineate between the Client and the Contractor. The Client fulfils his statutory duty as a service provider and employs a contractor to carry out the duties necessary to install and maintain highway electrical equipment. The contractor may be a privately owned company, a local authority in-house works department (Direct Services/Labour Organisation) or the contracting wing of a Regional Electricity Company. Some authorities employ Consultants to perform the work involved in preparing specifications and supervising works. The Consultant may be a separate department of the Council, or a private company.

Local government in Scotland and Wales comprises 32 and 22 Unitary Authorities respectively. In Northern Ireland, there are 26 Borough and District Councils, whose street lights are looked after by the Department of Environment Northern Ireland Roads Service, which is divided into 4 areas. In England there are 7 types of local authority -

  • Unitary Authorities & others - of which there are 52
  • Metropolitan Borough Councils, of which there are 36;
  • 32 London Borough Councils & the Corporation of London;
  • 30 County Councils;
  • Borough Councils,
  • District Councils and
  • Parish Councils.

Back to top of page


To contact Spinfish Publishing you can call us on 01273 491462 or email alice@spinfishpublishing.co.uk