‘How many people believe our local authorities provide accurate data to the smartphones and satnavs that we use’?
This was the question asked as part of a collaborative research project unveiled this autumn that helps put power back into the hands of local authorities to control the accuracy of information on road closures under their jurisdiction.
The team discovered a big misconception — that many people believe their local authority would be in a position to be able to provide accurate, up-to-date information on road closures to our devices. In reality this is not the case.
Or it was, until now. For the last 18 months, Elgin, Ringway, Ringway Jacobs, Hertfordshire County Council and Essex County Council have been developing a new tool collaboratively that enables on-site highways teams to communicate live with Sat Nav service providers and control when roads are open and closed in real time on journey planner and satnav maps.
Ringway and Ringway Jacobs provide highways term maintenance services to Hertfordshire and Essex Councils. When they need to do works on the highways, they apply for a temporary road closure from the council. The road space is booked for a period of time to allow the works to take place, and this duration is published and accessible through Elgin’s one.network service. However, it is unusual for the road to actually be closed for the entire duration of the roadspace booking. For drivers, finding roadworks signs or closures set up without any evidence of works taking place can be the cause of immense frustration.
The team wanted to change that. So they’ve been exploring a means of notifying when the road is actually closed and then open again, and getting this information to people in real time.
To do this they have developed mobile app for optimal use on a tablet or smartphone that gives the on-site highways maintenance teams the ability to open and close the road live, at the touch of a button, and know this will be instantly updated on satnavs.
For the staff out on site, their use of the tool has reduced hassle and abuse from drivers. The app has helped tackle a recent increase in abuse towards roadworkers.
This type of solution may seem simple, but it is the result of an intense collaboration between key organisations. Without having the patience, trust and foresight to understand the bigger issues and learn about what’s possible and what’s needed for all involved, it would almost certainly not have delivered the success that it has.
This project is one of a number of initiatives to help reduce congestion on our roads by improving the availability of accurate information on closures and disruptions, as well as improving efficiency in systems and services. This paper from the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) in 2018 provides a useful overview of this landscape.
Learn more from the team behind this award-winning solution on the Local Authority Hub at Highways UK on 6 November 2019. This session is the third of a three-part series beginning with an overview on StreetManager from DfT, and making the most of Permit Schemes from Jeff Elliott, West Sussex County Council.
Tickets are free, and attendance is accredited for CPD by CIHT. See what else is available for Local Authorities, and secure your place today.
[Image credit: Ringway / Ringway Jacobs slide deck presentation]