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Strategic Roads User Survey (SRUS)

Introduction

As part of representing the interests of users of England’s motorways and major ‘A’ roads (the Strategic Road Network), Transport Focus is developing a road user survey to replace the current National Road User Satisfaction Survey (NRUSS). This is set out in the performance specification section of the Government’s Road Investment Strategy (2015-20).

The new survey will be called the Strategic Roads User Survey (SRUS) and is due to launch in early 2017 after testing and piloting during summer and autumn 2016.

This document explains our approach to testing and piloting the SRUS, including how we will test two different methods – the ‘DVLA approach’ and the ‘alternative approach’ – in order to determine the best way to achieve what is needed.

Background

Right at the start of the process to develop the new survey Transport Focus commissioned an Independent Analytical Review.  This was led by Professor Graham Parkhurst of the Centre for Transport and Society at the University of West of England, working alongside Adam Phillips of Real Research[1]. The method recommended was to develop an online panel to allow the new survey and other research to be conducted continuously with a large, representative sample of SRN users. The Review proposed that only drivers be surveyed for the main satisfaction measure, the thinking being that drivers have higher awareness and a more comprehensive experience of the Strategic Road Network. A key recommendation was that drivers taking part should be randomly sampled from the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency’s (DVLA) driver licence database. The driver licence database is the perfect sampling frame for this research – it is the only source of the ‘universe’ of UK registered drivers. Another recommendation was that we should fully pilot the various aspects of the new survey before it is launched.

The ‘DVLA Approach’

Transport Focus has been progressing plans to pilot the ‘DVLA approach’ since autumn 2015 when we commissioned research agency Future Thinking to support us in designing and testing the survey materials. We have also reached agreement with DVLA about use of their driver license database as the source of road users in England to take part in the survey.

Following discussions with DVLA and various stakeholders, thinking has evolved from what was originally proposed in the Independent Analytical Review.  Originally, we had intended that 65,000 drivers would be invited to join our online panel first, and would subsequently be asked to take part in the survey.  Our intention now is that this will work the other way round – take part in SRUS first, then be invited to join the online panel.

There have been a couple of other changes.  First, in response to stakeholder feedback, the pilot will include passengers in cars – as well as drivers of all vehicles plus motorcyclists.  Understanding how passengers’ views differ from drivers’ views will inform a decision about whether passengers will be included in the final design of SRUS.  Second, the initial contact with drivers will now come from DVLA in the form of a short survey incorporating their own questions, rather than direct from Transport Focus as originally envisaged.  This additional step has been included at the request of DVLA to ensure that they do not breach their policy on data privacy. Whether this will impact on drivers’ propensity to take part in SRUS will become clear in the pilot.

The ‘Alternative Approach’

The ‘DVLA approach’ is innovative and powerful, drawing as it does on the ‘universe’ of UK registered drivers.  However, Transport Focus does not want to put all its eggs in one basket – we cannot know that the ‘DVLA approach’ will work until testing and piloting takes place.  Therefore we took the decision to also test and pilot an alternative – the ‘alternative approach’ – alongside it.

After careful consideration of potential survey methods, we decided that the most appropriate ‘alternative approach’ is an in-home, random location survey using CAPI (computer assisted personal interviewing). In practice there will be two different random location methodologies tested.  First, a bespoke Transport Focus survey in which only the SRUS questions are asked and, second, an omnibus survey in which the SRUS questions are asked alongside those from other organisations.  We wish to test both approaches because, while the omnibus will deliver a larger sample for a given budget (and allows boosts for hard to reach groups), we wish to understand any potential downsides.  For example, where the SRUS questions are positioned within an omnibus survey might affect how people respond.

Research agency TNS have been appointed to deliver the ‘alternative approach’.  This will involve SRUS questions being included in three waves of a weekly omnibus, generating a sample of 3,500-3,600 respondents, while our bespoke survey will produce 500 responses. Also, we will use 10 waves of the weekly omnibus survey we will test its effectiveness at getting the views of HGV drivers.

The Map

One of the first elements of SRUS will involve respondents identifying their last journey on the Strategic Road Network within the last four weeks. For the current NRUSS, paper maps with interviewer guidance are used to identify last journeys. But for SRUS, the ‘DVLA approach’ has no interviewers. We are therefore working with map developers Beacon Dodsworth to build an online map that will be inserted within the survey software. The aim is to develop a map that can be used accurately and easily without increasing the time it takes to complete the survey. For the ‘alternative approach’, we are in discussion with our research agency, TNS, about whether the mapping tool can be used with CAPI (internet access is required for the map). If this is not possible, an offline solution or paper maps will be used instead. The map will also be used by Transport Focus in other research, irrespective of the final SRUS methodology.

The Online Panel

As referred to above, all SRUS participants – in the pilots and once the survey is launched – will be invited to join our online panel.  This will enable Transport Focus to obtain immediate views from road users about emerging issues on the Highways England network, and will allow us to build a rich picture of road users by delving deeper into their perceptions, attitudes and behaviour.

Logistics industry, coach operators, cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders

While the SRUS will measure satisfaction among drivers using the Strategic Road Network (and potentially passengers in cars, depending on the outcome of the pilot), Transport Focus is currently considering options to understand satisfaction among others who use the Highways England network.  Our plans will include the logistics sector, coach operators, cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders.

Next Steps

The pilot is being conducted during summer and autumn 2016.  Once fieldwork is complete, all aspects of the ‘DVLA approach’ and the ‘alternative approach’ will be independently evaluated by Real Research, the agency involved in our initial Independent Analytical Review.  Transport Focus will then make a decision about the methodology that will best deliver the SRUS.  The new survey will be launched in early 2017 and run in parallel with the existing NRUSS until 31 March 2018.  This period of dual-running is required primarily to understand how overall satisfaction reported by SRUS correlates with that reported by NRUSS, allowing any adjustment in Highways England’s target in the Road Investment Strategy performance specification to take place.

Summary of SRUS next steps

Piloting and testing – summer and autumn 2016

We will pilot one questionnaire, but will test two sources of road users to complete it:

  • the ‘DVLA approach’
  • the ‘alternative approach’.

The ‘alternative test’ has two variants – a bespoke Transport Focus survey and the inclusion of questions in an omnibus survey.

Independent evaluation – late 2016

The results of each approach will be independently evaluated, to inform a decision about the best methodology for SRUS.

Launch of SRUS – early 2017

We anticipate SRUS launching in early 2017.

Map

An online map is being developed to help drivers recall their last journey on the Strategic Road Network.

Online panel

An online panel is being developed irrespective of whether the eventual SRUS methodology involves recruitment to a panel first.  Those taking part in SRUS, whichever methodology we select, will be invited to join the panel so they can take part in other research.

[1] http://www.transportfocus.org.uk/research-publications/publications/independent-analytical-review-for-a-road-user-satisfaction-survey/

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