Roadworks ahead! Or, summertime and the diggers are starting…
Investment in the maintenance and improvement of transport systems is the thing that makes most difference over the long-term to overall day-to-day experience for users. So, the welcome investment in the five-year road and rail spending packages, alongside other spending will, in time, make a real difference and hopefully, at least, keep pace with demand.
After decades of stop/start Government road spending, Highways England is getting into its stride. This year sees the start of work to boost capacity and journey time reliability between – among other places – junctions 3 (Hayes) to 12 (Theale) on the M4 (including the Heathrow exit), M62 junctions 10 (Croft interchange) to 12 (Eccles Interchange), the M6 between junctions 2 (Coventry) to 4 (Coleshill) and M20 junctions 3 (West Malling) to 5 (Aylesford).
The work needs to be done. Otherwise the road network, dealing with rising traffic levels, will slowly grind to a halt. Drivers clearly see the need for this investment too. Our research among road users on the priorities for Highways England’s Route Strategies found that drivers want enhanced safety, improved journey times, improved surface quality, signage and lighting, alongside a number of other priorities.
The key test for Highways England to retain driver trust through these works lies in demonstrating they are being done with users in mind – and communicating effectively. The M3 scheme, recently completed, showed that very long sections of roadworks, with accompanying narrow lanes, were strongly disliked. Information of the reason for the works seemed patchy, as did updates on progress.
Our incidents and roadworks research with drivers clearly showed what drivers want in these situations: for their needs to be considered more when planning roadworks and to see future schemes built in shorter sections or for such works to be better phased. Road users also want to feel that roadworks are completed as quickly as they can, with work undertaken 24/7 wherever possible to minimise their inconvenience.
Crucially, drivers want to see a big improvement in the accuracy and clarity of roadworks information, to help all drivers and the freight industry to plan better journeys.
So, all eyes on the roadworks and – speaking up from the driving seat – we will continue to help Highways England keep focused on road users while they oversee delivery of these improvements.