Shutting highway lights saves nothing

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Switching off the lights along highways actually costs more money than it saves, Rijkswaterstaat reveals. 

The cutback measure on electricity has caused outrage among motorists who have complained about increased dangers on unlit highways.

Source: Wikimedia/Uberprutser

The shutting off of lighting at the proposed thirty highways is supposed to save millions, but it now seems to be more of an expense. The turnover is 0.6 million euros per year, but the service to keep roadworks areas lit has already cost 2 million euros per year. This has to be done by contractors who need to be paid.

The problems also arise at locations of large accidents. For the safety of care workers, the lights must be on at those moments.

According to Rijkswaterstaat, the contractors assigned to manually switch on highway lights are asking for hefty fees. The service wants to avoid the expensive contractors by manually operating all the lights from traffic centers.

This requires new equipment, which will be available in June of this year.

Rijkswaterstaat knew months in advance that the cut-back measures could flop. On 14th May 2013, a civil servant said there is a real chance that "the manual installation at roadworks areas will cost more than the cut-backs will save."

Rijkswaterstaat will continue, however. And it does look like contractors do not come cheap. The costs are a minimum of 2 million a year. "That is multiple times the amount which is saved by the switching off of lights," wrote head engineer Peter Struijk on 10 September.

A speaker for Rijkswaterstraat claims that the expense of hiring contractors is only a "temporary setback," as the new equipment will eventually save money.

Rijkswaterstraat has not ruled out the chance that the measure will be overturned, now that it will cost more than save. The service takes its loss. "Turning back would confuse motorists. From the summer, the lights could go off again. That gives an unclear image."

The Royal Dutch Touring Club (ANWB) was critical about the measure to shut off lights along 30 highways, and no longer understands much of the plans any more.

"It seems strange that this cut-back measure goes on, if you know beforehand that it will just cost more," speaker Henk Zwijnenburg says.

"It seems more logical to arrange the technology first."

The economization of lighting would, until 2020, yield almost 24 million euros.