Ask any road user about the state of the road network in the UK and we’re confident you’ll get an answer lamenting the condition of the roads. You’re also likely to get a comment on the frustration caused by endless roadworks. So, road users want a well-maintained network, but don’t want the roadworks that come with this. What are road operators to do?
We believe better roadworks management will be the solution to this conflict—a view shared by Highways England. Last week they announced plans to test increasing speed limits through roadworks up to 60mph on a Sunday when there is less work taking place. The limit would be brought back down to 50mph when road workers are working near the traffic.
It is hoped this trial will lead to a change that minimises road user frustration and unnecessary delays. Jim O’Sullivan, Highways England chief executive, commented: “People understand roadworks are necessary but are also frustrated by them. At the same time we have to ensure as they drive through them that they, and our road workers, are safe…We are also working hard to give drivers more and better information about their journeys and to prepare our network for the future, for example the testing of roadside and vehicle technology, so we can continue to keep people, and the country, connected.”
Giving drivers more and better information about their journeys, as Highways England suggest, can also ease frustration around roadworks specifically. It’s long been established that informing people in a queue how long the wait is expected to be reduces anxiety and stress by reducing uncertainty. This technique is used to manage waiting across industries and can easily be applied to managing delays around roadworks.
The quickest route to satisfied road users.
Clearview Intelligence’s Insight journey time management system (JTMS) uses crowd source data to provide information on current journey times and average speeds along a route. As the data is not dependent on fixed sensors or cameras, this system can be up and running very quickly. The lack of permanent infrastructure removes the need for capital investment and reduces the risk to roadworkers by reducing time at the roadside and makes the system ideal for short or long term use i.e. when roadworks are taking place. It also significantly reduces the cost of the system compared to alternatives using ANPR or Bluetooth technology.
Solar powered, mobile variable message signs (VMS) placed on the surrounding network make road users aware of expected journey times. These can be moved as needed to respond to where traffic builds once the works begin. Once the roadworks are in place, sharing journey times with road users via VMS deployed on the approach to the roadworks and surrounding network will help to reduce road user frustration and allows them to navigate around the roadworks where possible.
When providing journey time information around roadworks we recommend setting up the JTMS system one week in advance of the works to understand the regular journey times and patterns. When journey times exceed a given duration road operators can receive an alert and investigate the issue rather than having to monitor the works 24/7. Multiple users can receive the alerts via e-mail or on the applications dashboard ensuring any incidents are covered. Such alerts, coupled with accurate journey time information empower road operators to manage their roadworks most effectively.
The Insight journey time management system populates the VMS with information about the roadworks and current journey time, while also allowing road operators to manually update the VMS in real time to respond to incidents identified via the alerts system. The simple act of telling road users how long it will take them to get past the roadworks helps them to stay calm; reducing their frustration and the risk of an incident involving road workers.