Road User Voice – April 2016 – Bedford Bound

04 April 2016

Delays and disruption, roadside facilities, signage and road surfacing were top of the agenda at a recent visit to Highways England in Bedford.

The team travelled by road to Bedford from the south east and north west, giving them ample opportunity to experience using the M6, M25 and M1 – all part of the Strategic Road Network (SRN).

The visit itself, as well as the journey there and back, allowed the team to capture and better understand the issues road users face day-to-day.

Overhead gantries are a primary source of information for drivers on the network, but the information could be more relevant. For example, signage indicated that the M1 had long delays between junctions 11 and 10. This is helpful if you are local to that area and know the junction numbers. However, Highways England needs to question how useful this information is to road users who are not familiar with the M1’s junction numbers.

Transport Focus would like to see these messages made more intuitive and tailored to drivers’ specific situations.

Transport Focus is currently researching road users’ needs and experiences of using roadside facilities. To see some of these facilities in action first-hand, the road user team visited several motorway service areas on the way to and from Bedford.

Considering it was a grey weekday in late January, each stop saw reasonably full car parks at differing times of the day, so there is clearly a demand for these facilities. There was a good selection of well-known brands at each stop and also big differences in the price of fuel, both on and off the SRN.

A trial of electronic roadside signs displaying fuel prices will soon start on a section of the M5 between Bristol and Exeter. It will be interesting to see if this affects drivers’ behaviour and fuel prices.

On long journeys, such as the ones taken by the road user team, you would expect to see roadworks. It was sometimes unclear why roads had speed restrictions and miles of cones. Better information at the roadside is needed. Where miles of cones were in view with lane closures, you couldn’t see workers getting on with the job in hand. The forthcoming delays and disruptions research explores what matters to road users when incidents and roadworks cause problems.


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