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Providing journey time information around roadworks; are we there yet?

Transport Focus, the transport watchdog, recently released ‘Incidents and roadworks, A road user perspective’. This report collates feedback from road users to deliver recommendations to Highways England and concludes that more emphasis should be placed on the needs of road users. 

Specifically, road users want better information about roadworks and incidents. A typical road user reported checking Google maps for journey time information before setting off, then relying on Variable Message Signs (VMS) at the roadside for information about their journey time. How many minutes it is taking to travel a given number of miles to a destination was reported as the most useful information given on a VMS. 

The Autumn Statement was released shortly after this report and detailed more than £1.3 billion of investment for road improvements. This is broken down into funds to tackle congestion and upgrade existing roads, as well as the building of new roads such as the Cambridge to Oxford expressway. This commitment to improving our roads is very welcome, but there will be significant roadworks as this investment is put into action. 

Road users will need journey time information at the road side as new and ongoing roadworks are carried out. 

There are various methods for determining journey times. ANPR cameras detect a vehicle’s registration plates and track the vehicle as it travels along a defined route. This information is used to determine how long it takes a vehicle to pass between points A and B. The vehicle’s speed and an average journey time can then be determined. 

Bluetooth detectors work in the same way, but instead of recognising a number plate, they detect a Bluetooth device in a vehicle as it passes between two points. Again, knowing how long a vehicle takes to travel from point A to point B gives us the journey time.

It is also possible to determine journey time from mobile phones using either GPRS data from the telecoms provider or from an app on the phone. 

Once we know the journey time for a route, this can be displayed on VMS to provide the roadside information that users want. 

Our Insight Roadworks Management Application utilises Bluetooth detection. This is ideal for managing roadworks as it is more mobile and lower cost than ANPR alternatives. 

The system makes journey time information available straight to the VMS and has a simple user interface where the displays can be updated manually if needed. The Insight system generates automated email alerts when congestion is detected on the route. These can notify different people and services (police, ambulance, fire service), so any incident is handled without delay.

In this system, both the Bluetooth and the VMS are solar powered so they can be deployed quickly and are set up to suit the specific roadworks. The detectors and signs are separate, which means the VMS can be placed well in advance of the roadworks. This gives users the information they need early enough that they can change their route or expected time of arrival well in advance of any congestion. 

Amey used this system when roadworks took place on the Kincardine Bridge to manage the flow of traffic around the roadworks and again on the M74 managing roadworks that were underway earlier this month. 

As a result of the system operators like Amey are aware of what is happening on the network and can rest assured that the system will send out the required notifications should an issue occur. Road users benefit from the information they need to evaluate alternative routes, let others know of their expected arrival time and stay calm if they do get caught in a jam by knowing how long they will be held up.

Do you have roadworks scheduled that could benefit from a journey time management system (JTMS)? Get in touch to understand more about our dedicated roadwork management application.

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