‘Get me to the church on time…’ Long-term planning really matters to road users
While most of us road users are focused on today’s journey, getting the planning and investment strategy right is crucial if things are to improve in the longer-term. One of Transport Focus’ key objectives is to ensure the user voice is heard loud and clear in long-term planning and investment decisions.
Transport Focus has been putting a lot of effort into getting the user voice, based on insight evidence, articulated loud and clear in planning the next ‘Road Investment Strategy’ (RIS) which will run for five years from April next year. You can now find this pulled together in one place on the website.
It was good to see this work underpin the key messages in the Government’s consultation last year on the future of England’s strategic roads – it’s clearly intended that future investment ‘reflects and meets the needs of road users’. In the Government’s draft RIS, published in October, the user priorities highlighted by Transport Focus are prominent.
This important document focuses up-front on the need for reliably smooth journeys for users on the Strategic Road Network of motorways and major ‘A’ roads. Also, the Department for Transport has committed to ‘working closely with Transport Focus to ensure we are building the user perspective into everything we do’.
Highways England likewise refers to the work of Transport Focus in its Strategic Road Network Initial Report. They are clear that they work closely with us to ensure their activities and investments are focused on achieving what road users want. Highways England also specifically notes that they ‘have used data provided by Transport Focus… to identify initiatives to improve customer service’.
As part of this Transport Focus has been asking road users what they think the performance of Highways England should be measured from 2020, and where targets should be set, to ensure that Highways England is focused on the things that matter to users. The second stage of the research – done jointly with the Office of Rail and Road – has just been published.
A really clear message came back in that research. If you had to summarise users’ needs from Highways England it would be: “please operate a safe, well-maintained road network that gives me reliable journey times. This also means paying attention to how roadworks are carried out and how disruption is cleared up”.
Not glamorous, perhaps, but vital steps to getting the planning and welcome spend on the Strategic Road Network more focused on its users.