Transport Focus – the road ahead

27 April 2015

On 30 March 2015 Transport Focus started work helping to improve and monitor the performance of the Highways Agency.

There are three principles Transport Focus works to: focusing solely on what users experience and want, being useful to those that make the decisions about transport services, and basing its work on evidence.

Transport Focus, the new name for Passenger Focus, will use its many years of experience in representing passengers to work for the interest of all those who use motorways and the most significant A-roads – known as the Strategic Road Network (SRN).

That means working for a range of road users including those travelling for personal and business purposes, and non-motorised users such as cyclists and pedestrians.

Chief executive Anthony Smith said: “User satisfaction surveys will allow us to benchmark how different parts of the Strategic Road Network perform. This is a powerful tool for driving change as we have found in public transport. We think this is the first time work like this has been done by an organisation representing users.”

On 30 March we published our first road user research, launched a new-look website and sent out the first edition of Road User Voice, a new monthly newsletter. If you would like to stay in touch with our work in this area, please click here to sign up for newsletters and other updates direct to your inbox.

A key piece of work will be to eventually produce the satisfaction survey that will replace the existing survey run by the Highways Agency. The agency became a Government-owned company, Highways England, and has been set a target of 90 per cent satisfaction among users.

Transport Focus next plans to research priorities for improvement to help identify areas where unallocated investment in the current five-year Roads Investment Strategy and future strategies can make most difference.

Following this, we will look at issues in more detail which could include the way roadworks are carried out, information, reaction to extreme weather conditions and how accidents are cleared up.

We also hope to work with Highways England on the design and communication of major schemes – how can users be involved and informed of the options and benefits.

What road users want
Our first piece of work on roads is The needs and experiences of road users, exploring how different groups use the Strategic Road Network and what their issues are. 

We carried out focus groups, accompanied journeys and interviews with a range of road users including those travelling for personal and business purposes, as well as non-motorised users such as cyclists.

For drivers, the positive aspects were mainly cost, convenience and comfort. Some drivers on longer journeys went to great lengths to maximise their enjoyment, planning music playlists, snacks and drinks. Drivers felt a positive experience was one where they had a sense of control over the journey.

The negative aspects of driving on the Strategic Road Network were mostly to do with the external environment and other drivers’ behaviour. Drivers’ most negative experiences often involved sub-optimal road conditions, delays, congestion, bad weather and poor visibility.

What else has changed?
This change was brought about by the Infrastructure Act, which gained Royal Assent in February 2015. Government is reforming the way major roads are run to make sure that the big increase recently announced in investment in the network is delivered effectively, for the benefit of users.

The Highways Agency became a Government-owned company called Highways England and its efficiency is monitored by a unit within the Office of Rail and Road (formerly the Office of Rail Regulation), working alongside but separate from, Transport Focus’s role as the transport user watchdog.

Who we are working with
This is the first time that road users have a unified voice in Government as consumers. There are many well-established organisations and businesses that speak effectively for different types of road user and we are working closely with them to draw on their experience.

As we continue to do for passengers, we use hard evidence drawn from real transport users to get Government and industry to make the changes that matter. 

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