Are we nearly there yet? Providing accurate and reliable journey times to beat the summer holiday traffic

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This past weekend brought the usual headlines for this time of year with ‘Frantic Friday’ and miles of ferry queues reported at the start of the summer holidays.

Motorists have come to expect traffic jams when the schools break up for summer and people head off on their holidays. The RAC even created a map detailing the roads and times when the worst delays could be expected.

Getting stuck in traffic on the way to your summer holiday is extremely stressful given you likely have a flight or a ferry to catch. What could be worse than running late to catch a connection with bored children in the car asking, ‘are we nearly there yet?’ and no sign of the end to the queueing traffic?

Add to this, the fact that many major road upgrades are scheduled for the summer holiday period to reduce the impact on commuters and you can understand how drivers come to blame the road operators for their delay. But what can they do about this when the upgrades need to be carried out at some point?

One thing that can reduce stress for drivers is knowing exactly how long they are going to be delayed. Transport Focus, the transport sector’s independent watchdog, has been asking road users what their priorities are so they can be fed into the Road Investment Strategy Performance Specification that the Department for Transport (DfT) is going to set for Highways England.

The top priorities given by road users concerned safety and the maintenance of the network. These were followed by reliable journey times. Road users want their journeys to be reliable and described this as a higher priority than fast journey times.

This brings us back to the holiday traffic; if road users know how long a journey is going to take and that prediction is reliable, they will be far less stressed. Similarly, road users delayed by road works will be less stressed if they are accurately informed how long the delay will last.

Fortunately for road users and operators alike it is now far simpler to provide these accurate journey times than ever before. The rise of data sharing and online maps means that virtual journey time data can be captured without needing to deploy any physical infrastructure on the roadside. This means that road operators can implement a journey time system only when and where it is needed most. For example, over the first week of the summer holiday or while road works are under way.

Once road operators have accurate and reliable journey times, they can share these with road users via mobile or permanent variable message signs (VMS). This can inform drivers of the delay ahead and enable them to take alternative routes or simply reassure them when traffic is flowing well.

Clearview offer such a system that uses crowdsourced data to deliver journey time information and there are many benefits that come from not needing to deploy infrastructure to deliver journey times:

  • Traffic flow can be monitored within minutes of setting up the system as there is no need to procure, deliver and install roadside detection and monitoring equipment
  • Data is provided reliably and not subject to weather or power failures
  • There is improved safety for roadworkers as no equipment is installed at the roadside, meaning roadworkers are not exposed to risk
  • No traffic management is required for the solution to be deployed, meaning road users are not held up unnecessarily
  • Such systems are more cost-effective as operators only pay for the duration and routes required
  • The routes and frequency of monitoring can be changed easily, giving users huge flexibility and ability to react to changes or issues on the network?

Earlier this year Clearview’s Insight Journey Time Monitoring application was used by the BMV (a joint venture between BAM Nuttall, Morgan Sindall and VolkerFitzpatrick) who were carrying out major works on the M5 Oldbury viaduct, between junctions 1 and 2. They required accurate journey time reporting for vehicles travelling through the road works for only a short period, but the information was needed quickly. Using our Journey Time Monitoring application, they were able to get the speed information they needed without the hassle and risk of deploying a radar or Bluetooth solution.

The BMV was also able to benefit from paying for only the short amount of time that they needed the system for. It has since shared this application with its parent company projects as a best practice approach for monitoring traffic flow through road works.

This blog was contributed by Clearview Intelligence’s Head of Marketing, Andrew Rhodes. We look forward to further insights from Clearview at TRANSPORT Smart Class, Scotland 2019 (Dundee, 12th September), TRANSPORT Smart Class, London & South East England 2019 (London, 9th October), TRANSPORT Smart Class, South West England 2019 (Bristol, 4th December) and TRANSPORT Smart Class, Midlands 2020 (Birmingham, 5th March), where their experts will be delivering thought leadership presentations around the evolution of journey time monitoring and also hosting deeper-dive roundtable sessions with our delegates. Stakeholders with relevant credentials can apply for a free delegate place by completing the registration form on the appropriate event page.

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