To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport what (a) research and (b) trial work his Department has undertaken for the purposes of improving the provision of information to drivers on the motorway network on incidents on their routes in the last five years; and what assessment he made of the outcomes of such work.
The Highways Agency has undertaken a number of trials and carried out research regarding a number of its information services. These include:
Traffic England Website
Prior to the new website being launched in April 2009, customer panels were held to test the functionality and understanding of the new site. Following this feedback, changes were made to the design and functionality of the website.
Atlas Professional Website
(A website aimed at professional users such as Travel News Media) The Highways Agency recently carried out an evaluation of this website with users via an online questionnaire. The Agency also asked users for their comments on new functionality that could be offered on this site, which were received positively and this site is due to be refreshed with new functionality later this year.
Variable Message Signs (VMS)
The Agency undertakes National Road Users Satisfaction Surveys on a regular basis which includes questions regarding the accuracy of messages shown on our VMS regarding incidents ahead and these results are used to inform improvements to accuracy of messages. In addition, we also seek feedback about whether road users receive sufficient information about incidents and how they receive this information. This is then fed back to our teams to improve the way information is disseminated.
Travel Times on Variable Message Signs (TTVMS)
This service was trialled on sections of the motorway network from July 2006 until September 2007. Following customer surveys the majority of respondents thought showing travel and delay time messages was a good idea, found them useful and easy to read and understand. Following this, TTVMS was implemented across the whole HA network.
Highways Agency Information Points
A Highways Agency Information Point (HAIP) is a real-time system, providing road users with a unique platform for receiving information on the state of the road network ahead. An initial HAIP prototype was trialled at Hopwood Services on the M42 in 2005, following this success further HAIPs were installed across motorway service areas and truck stops. Following research into drivers' reactions to HAIPs, they have now been updated and now contain a non-interactive single display system.
Spoken information service trials took place during 2005 and 2007 and this demonstrated the viability of a 'dip in/dip out' radio service providing constantly updated traffic information on a national and regional basis.
A partnership trial with two companies, MxData and the BBC was held in 2006. The Highways Agency created two accounts to access the existing HANET service allowing each organisation to take, store and forward images to the public. During the trial period, a report from MxData showed an overwhelming positive response.