Former top civil servant calls for common platform for traffic management

07/08/2018
Josie Ames

A leading expert in traffic management has highlighted the importance of getting more data, including traffic speed data, onto a common network management platform.

Mike Talbot, who was head of the Traffic Management Division at the Department for Transport (DfT) for 10 years, was speaking exclusively to Highways following the addition of speed data to Ordnance Survey’s (OS) MasterMap Highways Network.

OS has added three new products to its Highways Master Map family that incorporate speed and speed limit datasets provided by third party supplier BaseMap.

Mr Talbot, who was largely responsible for the introduction of the Traffic Management Act of 2004, said local authorities should be more proactive in making decisions about traffic management and seek out additional data such as average speed information to prevent potential issues, rather than reacting to issues as they occur.

He added: ‘What has struck me with this new product and indeed other things that have been added to OS MasterMap previously, is that the more information local authorities have the better they’re going to be able to respond to their network management duty under the Traffic Management Act to manage their network holistically.’

Mr Talbot also suggested the data could have uses in helping authorities regulate speed in residential areas, and assess and improve the accessibility of locations on their networks.

More generally, he suggested that increasing availability of datasets collected by a wide range of agencies and organisations would help local authorities become more proactive in network monitoring despite shrinking budgets.

‘One of the elements of the Traffic Management Act, under the network management duty and guidance that was issued, was about monitoring the network. I think it’s fair to say that local authorities have often found that quite difficult and largely because it actually can be, often in the past, quite a costly exercise to monitor what’s happening on your network.

‘One of the things that this OS example provides us is perhaps, for the local authorities, a more economical way of monitoring their network because it’s picked up by other parties and is made available rather than them having to do it themselves, which in current circumstances is obviously quite difficult with the budgets being stretched and shrunk.

‘Back in the days when we were thinking about the Act, it was apparent even then that getting more data going onto a common platform was going to be crucial to managing a network more efficiently. I think we’ve seen how that has developed over these years. The OS dataset that has got width and height restrictions on, so that kind of thing is obviously useful.

‘Then you’ve got all the streetworks and the developments that have gone on with information becoming available online.

‘It’s being able to combine all these datasets in a common way that will allow better handling when managing your network. So no doubt that will progress further and other things will be added in due course.’

As Highways has reported, The DfT has commissioned the Transport Systems Catapult (TSC) to review the urban traffic management and control (UTMC) system used by local authorities.

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