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JTS: optimising road user experience

DATEX in use on the A14

DATEX in use on the A14

Not only is the £1.5bn A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme the largest in Highways England’s current programme, it also features a pioneering journey time solution (JTS) enabling real-time journey information from the National Traffic Operations Centre (NTOC) to be displayed on portable VMS. 

JTS have become a regular fixture on the UK’s road network, informing road users and helping them to efficiently navigate roadworks, promoting the optimisation of their journey experience.

The range of JTS available to highways management firms evolves quickly, largely as a result of the constant and rapid evolution of the technology that drives them, along with the industry’s quest to provide the best-possible service to road users.

Mobile Visual Information Systems Ltd (MVIS) launched its first temporary JTS back in 2013, and in 2015, delivered a solution involving the largest deployment of portable VMS on the motorway network that there had ever been.

The works in progress

The works in progress

Progress has continued apace, and 2017 has been a tremendously exciting year for the firm, as it deployed the first ITS solution enabling real-time journey information from the NTOC to be displayed on portable VMS.

Given the sector’s determination to promote the best possible road user experience, the significance of this development cannot be overstated. As the messages displayed now replicate precisely those shown on Highways England’s fixed signs, they are far more easily interpreted by motorists than when the information featured was not generated by NTOC.

MVIS’ DATEX JTS deployment on the largest scheme in Highways England’s current programme, the £1.5bn A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon upgrade scheme, is enabling an average of 85,000 drivers daily who use the 21-mile stretch of road involved, to navigate the roadworks easily and efficiently, minimising journey disruption.

Due to finish in 2020, the scheme includes a new bypass to the south of Huntingdon, carriageway widening on the existing A14 between Swavesey and Girton and improvements to the Cambridge northern bypass.  It also includes junction improvements, the widening of the A1 trunk road between Brampton and Alconbury and new local access roads.  The existing A14 between the Ellington and Swavesey junctions is to be de-trunked, the viaduct over the East Coast Main Line railway at Huntingdon removed and road connections to the existing A14 from within the town modified.

The ambitious project, funded through a combination of contributions from Central Government, local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships, aims to relieve traffic congestion, unlock local economic growth as well as enhancing national economic growth, connect communities, improve safety and reduce driver stress, as well as improving the local environment.

MVIS was contracted to deploy its largest DATEX JTS to date on the project by the A14 Integrated Delivery Team (IDT), working on behalf of Highways England. Twenty-two Bartco UK VMS-Cs and eight VMS-As display journey times from their locations to the end of the affected stretch of road, informing drivers of the predicted journey duration and if possible, enabling them to select alternative routes.

The journey times shown are calculated using DATEX II actual time journey time data collected from in-vehicle sensors and relayed by NTOC.  These times are renewed every five minutes.

Of the decision to appoint MVIS, the A14 IDT’s project director, Mark Berg, said: “This pioneering JTS enables us to provide accurate and easily interpreted journey time information to drivers as they navigate the stretch of road on which we are working. Together with Highways England, we aim to optimise road users’ experience and this new solution is helping us to achieve that objective as we strive to deliver long-term improvements to this exceptionally busy route.”

A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon project director David Bray of Highways England added:  “Delivering a world-class customer experience for those who use our network and for our neighbours is one of Highways England’s imperatives. We know that improving the information that VMS display is something our customers appreciate. Being able to display real-time journey information on mobile electronic signs along the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon scheme is helping us help our customers plan and enjoy a better experience of the country’s biggest road upgrade currently in construction.”

It’s been a gratifying experience for the MVIS team to have this opportunity to implement its new solution on such a significant project.  The company has built a strong reputation both for innovation and trustworthy delivery, and both have been deployed on this considerable scheme.

But of course, this isn’t the end of the line.  The expectations of the road user and so the needs of the highways management sector never stand still.  The race is always on to minimise yet further the impact of roadworks on journeys and to maximise the information provided to drivers.

JTS is rightly a category of ITS solution that must continue to develop in line with these expectations, as the industry strives to deliver the improvements to the road network that the government has pledged to deliver.

MVIS is tremendously fortunate to work in close partnership with Bartco UK, the manufacturer of its portable VMS and the creator of its integrated ITS solutions, and its product and solution development is relentless and customer-led.  As a result, DATEX is only one of several JTS solutions MVIS can deliver. Together with its ITS industry peers, MVIS will work to ensure that the latest technology is harnessed to generate the best possible JTS solutions.

For further details of the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon upgrade scheme, please visit www.highways.gov.uk/A14C2H

Graeme Lee, sales manager, Mobile Visual Information Systems Ltd (MVIS)

Graeme Lee, sales manager, Mobile Visual Information Systems Ltd (MVIS)