A three-month probe, which involved no less than 20 Freedom of Information requests, has resulted in four police forces to admit their cameras either don't work or have failed to catch any drivers in the last year.
The Met Police, which is in charge of policing the London Orbital motorway in Surrey and the Thames Valley took more than 40 days to respond to requests – and originally refused to respond for fear of the repercussions.
However, after arguing with the Met that these cameras are paid for by motorists, are supposed to be located at "accident black spots" and that other forces had already revealed the information, the force finally admitted that NO drivers have been caught be overhead gantry cameras on the M25 in the last 12 months in its area.
Hertfordshire police said it was the same for the stretch it polices, while the Essex force were even more forthcoming – they admitted that there are NO live cameras on its stretch of the M25 at all.
The original aim was to uncover which overhead speed camera on the M25 had caught the most motorists. We asked each authority this question as well as which was the worst performing in terms of generating revenue for the Treasury. We also asked what the highest speed recorded by one of these cameras was.
However, it soon became clear from the responses that followed – and the evasive actions some forces took to our requests – that very few of the cameras were actually active. Edmund King, president of The AA (pictured below), was shocked when presented with the report.
He said: "Generally, apart from controlled motorway schemes or average distance cameras through road works, cameras are not targeted on motorways as they are our safest roads.
"Speeding on the M25 does not tend to be as prevalent as on other motorways mainly due to heavy usage and congestion.
"If drivers believe that there is no chance of being caught speeding on the M25 then there will be a temptation for some to speed up when conditions allow it. We know that some of the cameras have worked in the past so we will be keen to hear why they are not currently working.
"Perhaps the police should investigate which are the most dangerous sections of the motorway and target their enforcement resources on those areas?"
The question as to why, despite numerous speed camera warning signs and lines painted on the motorway to gauge speeds, the traps remain unused.
Police forces already struggle to process the offences recorded by cameras in built-up areas and that the deluge of paperwork the M25 cameras would generate would simply swamp the system.
Some may also question the ethics of revealing that few – if any – of the cameras on the M25 are live and say it may result in more motorists breaking the law. However, it's worth noting that there are many thousands of miles of motorway in Britain where there are no cameras at all and there's always the chance of mobile camera vans operating on the M25, not to mention police patrols.
While the overhead gantries on some sections of the M25 may not be active now, there's nothing to stop police forces changing their minds either...