Transport User Voice – December 2020 – Our public Board meeting

30 November 2020

Road user special!

We held our latest Board in meeting in public last Tuesday 24 November. This was a great opportunity to look at everything we’ve done on roads so far and how.

Our senior insight advisors updated the Board on the official surveys we are responsible for. This included:

  • Strategic Roads User Survey (SRUS)
  • cyclists, pedestrians and equestrians
  • logistics and coach.

They talked about the engagement Transport Focus has had not only with users (including businesses) but with Highways England and local authorities as well. We talked about the ways we collect and interpret data and the importance of our data hub as it makes the results of our surveys readily available.

We had a presentation discussing the Road Investment Strategy (RIS) 3 research programme, looking ahead to 2025-2030. This would include surveying a wide range of road users during 2021 and identifying priorities for improvement and aspirations for the network post Covid-19. Sustainable issues such as electric and hybrid vehicles would feature prominently in the research programme, along with related economic factors. The focus groups we use as part of the programme often raise surprising issues not always taken into account – street lighting, for example.

As a result of our work on RIS2, Transport Focus has been involved in the development of new metrics for RIS3, working alongside Department for Transport (DfT), the Office of Rail and Road and Highways England. There is a particular emphasis on operational resilience and maintenance. We explained that the new metrics will focus on road surface quality, lane availability and the clearing and resetting of electronic signage, among others.

Holding Highways England to account on behalf of its users is a central task for Transport Focus. We have a stakeholder manager for each of Highways England’s regions to engage with staff and projects across the network. This has resulted in a number of improvements – such as the A66 scheme in Cumbria where interaction with and feedback from users of this key route was transformed. Social media has played an important part in this and has helped similar work. There is compelling evidence that Transport Focus’s engagement with Highways England has had substantial outcomes for road users.

We took a look at the success of our Sort My Sign campaign to encourage road users to report broken or missing signs. since its launch in January 2020. We also reflected on the challenges the campaign has faced during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

We also talked about Transport Focus’s road user community. This consists of 40 representatives of different types of user, ensuring demographic issues are taken into account. Feedback from the panel is essential in ensuring we understand what is happening across the network as it happens. This can mean traffic levels during the lockdown or the impact of roadworks and other pinch points where the Strategic Road Network crosses local authority roads.

A key issue facing road users – especially commercial road users – is the fast approaching end to the Brexit transition period. The primary concern is to understand the potential impact of border restrictions and controls. Information will be critical and Transport Focus will be monitoring the quality and consistency of the information provided. We will be looking at whether the information helps to avoid problems in the first place as well as if it helps users en route and those impacted by congestion.

The allocation of road space is an example of where we have been collaborating with organisations such as London TravelWatch. The DfT is encouraging local authorities to favour passenger transport and pedestrians and cyclists. Some of the issues are complex and sensitive and the decisions made by local authorities must, in our view, take full account of user needs, including those of local businesses. The project is at an early stage and evidence is being gathered. Of particular concern is the impact on urban bus travel.

The breadth and depth of Transport Focus’s road user work was further explored as Board members questioned the team and celebrated its achievements. The proposed acceleration of the end of internal combustion engine manufacturing was flagged as a major issue for the medium term as was the associated need for the development of the electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Around 300 viewers watched at least a part of the meeting on our live stream. You can watch it in full here.


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