CONTROVERSIAL barriers on Southampton’s Itchen Toll Bridge could be reinstalled, council bosses have revealed.

The automated barriers were removed earlier this year after a fault with their sensors caused them to crash down on four vehicles, including a motorbike.

But city council chiefs say traffic flow has improved since the bridge became fully-automated on March 1, and barriers may now be reinstated.

The automated toll system, which allows motorists to pay the toll with coins or a Smartcities smartcard, proved contentious before it had even been implemented, after it was revealed that the machines would not issue change.

There was an outcry when it was revealed motorhome owners would have to pay £25 each time they passed through the barriers, as the sensors automatically set charges based on a vehicle’s height.

Then the barriers were taken down after a series of incidents where they crashed down onto motorists trying to cross the bridge.

The new scheme is aimed at improving traffic flows on the bridge. The council said the toll pays for the maintenance of the bridge, which underwent a £1m overhaul in 2011.

Council chiefs say initial teething problems with the scheme have been smoothed out after trials held in January and February, and there has been a good take-up from motorists.

Cabinet member for environment and transport Asa Thorpe said: “The bridge went fully automated on March 1, with a relatively smooth switch-over.

“Traffic flow at peak times has become as fast as before the automation and over 14,000 drivers are finding the use of a Smartcities card a very convenient and efficient way to use the bridge.

“The bridge automation runs and is monitored 24 hours a day enabling us to keep more lanes open at off-peak times.”

Cllr Thorpe added that the barriers may be reinstalled in the future.

He continued: “The new barriers were removed during trials when we discovered the sensors were not always registering motorbikes consistently. Safety is paramount for the bridge and so we continue to monitor the system. We are considering reinstating the barriers in the future but would welcome comments from bridge users.”