A raft of developments at the Highways Agency are set to improve service for England’s road users.

In an interview with Computer Weekly, Denise Plumpton, director of information, said she wants drivers to make informed decisions about their route.

“We collect lots of data about the state of the roads, and my aim is to share this,” she said.

A new DAB digital radio service went live in July, giving five-minute bulletins on national and local roads which are updated every 15 minutes.

The data for this service is transmitted via a digital stream, so the agency is considering delivery across other platforms, such as digital television or an automated telephone service.

It also has an agreement with Ofcom for restricted service licences, which give five-minute bulletins on AM radio about big events. They are available within 25 miles of the event and each one lasts for 30 days. The Agency is currently deciding which events to cover.

In August message signs were switched on across England giving information on motorways about drivers’ time distance from, and delays around, major junctions. Automatic number plate recognition cameras send encrypted data over a wide area network, feeding a Serco bespoke journey-time tool.

Message composition software then sends messages to 300 signs, which are updated every five minutes.

The agency also has a high bandwidth network operating around the roads, which means images from cameras can be externally distributed – either as stills on the web, or streamed as TV travel news broadcasts, giving drivers more ways of checking the roads before leaving.

And for commuters, there is the possibility of a morning text service letting them know if their daily route is congested.

“We have the ability to know what is going on, and we feel we need to tell people.” said Plumpton.

PUBLICATION: ComputerWeekly.com
AUTHOR: Rebecca Thomson
DATED: 20th September 2007