Working in partnership with London TravelWatch

Transport User Voice – Improving road user experiences during incidents

19 December 2017

The independent watchdog is working with Highways England and the police to tackle motorways hold-up misery.

Unplanned incidents cause pain and misery for those directly involved and for those stuck in the tailbacks. We are working hard to get the voice of road users heard by Highways England and the police in managing incidents on major roads.

Following the recent lengthy hold-ups on the M1 and M3, we wrote to Highways England chief executive, Jim O’Sullivan, with our concerns. You can read our letter to Jim, and his response here.

At our public Board meeting in November, Highways England’s Customer Service Director for Operations, Mel Clarke, gave us an overview of how Highways England are tackling this issue. Mel told us that she was looking to address these issues in a number of ways, including:

  • taking a more customer-focused approach to incident management
  • considering providing a ‘helicopter view’ of what was happening from its National Traffic Operations Centre
  • making earlier interventions to help customers
  • better communication with road users.

Following this, we met Executive Directors Mike Wilson (safety, engineering and standards) and Nick Harris (operations). We’ve also met with the national lead for roads policing, Chief Constable Anthony Bangham of the National Police Chiefs’ Council.

Last year, we looked at incidents and roadworks on Highways England’s motorways and major ‘A’ roads to find out what road users want. Read our report and recommendations here.

Based on our research, we are pressing Highways England to improve the following areas:

  • speed of releasing trapped traffic, and stopping more vehicles from joining a queue
  • road user welfare in the meantime
  • helping people avoid the problem in the first place
  • communication with those who are stuck.

We are pleased to see plans for improvements that include reviewing how incidents are managed, better training of staff to consider customers more, reviewing the protocols that Highways England and the emergency services use, better and more useful customer information – especially at the roadside and on social media, and better national coordination of major incidents.

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