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Laying the roadmap for digital road management and smart mobility

One.network’s James Harris urges local and highway authorities to respond to the DfT’s consultation on the digitalisation of Traffic Regulation Orders

James Harris
25 March 2022
James Harris

 

With no hint of hyperbole, I can say there has never been a more exciting time for the highways and street works sector I have been obsessively involved in for more than a decade. The vibrant marketplace of transport technology providers working with progressive highway authorities reflects a sector full of ambition, committed to delivering positive outcomes for citizens and road users.

From safety improvement initiatives and supporting sustainability goals through to enabling smarter, more connected journeys for road users, the rate of advancement is staggering and the potential future benefits that can be unlocked are enormous.

That is why I am so enthusiastic about the Department for Transport’s current consultation on the digitalisation of Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs). It is why I am encouraging all of the 300-plus highway authorities, utilities, contractors and other organisations that rely on the one.network platform to submit responses and engage with the consultation before the 17 April deadline.

There is a lot of valuable detail contained within the consultation documents, but fundamentally, the proposed alterations to TRO processes and requirements will achieve three core objectives:

  1. Enable digital TROs with standardised, easily accessible open data
  2. Transform engagement and consultation with local communities
  3. Simplify and speed up the time it takes to make TROs.

I was further encouraged in how the consultation lays out the tangible, real-world benefits that delivering this reform enables. In particular, the department mentions being able to directly support key policy commitments such as:

  • Bringing full-fibre and gigabit capable broadband to every home and business across the UK by 2025
  • Launching the biggest ever pothole-filling programme as part of the National Infrastructure Strategy
  • Investing £1bn in completing a fast-charging network to ensure that everyone is within 30 miles of a rapid electric vehicle charging station.

I know first-hand how difficult it can be to explain to someone not familiar with our sector, just how much transformative change can be unleashed if TROs can be digitalised, at scale across the country.

At one.network we know the benefits that can be realised, because we are already delivering a standardised, fully digital and at scale solution for the creation of Temporary Traffic Regulation Orders (TTROs) within our platform. Last year alone, 92,064 road closures were created and published digitally by local highway authorities using our traffic management solution.

Whilst a great many of those closures will have been for road maintenance (filling those potholes), it is heartening to see utilities and contractors embracing our platform with similar success. For example, in the east of England, UK's gas distribution network Cadent is using one.network to automate the creation and digital submission of TTROs to the local road authorities. Amongst several benefits realised, they saw a reduction in permit approval times from a burdensome average of four weeks down to as quickly as just two days.

Here at one.network we look forward to working with the entire industry to embrace DfT’s vision for a fully digitalised TRO process. We are encouraged by the department’s assurances that whatever outcomes emerge from the consultation process authorities’ existing investment in workflow innovation and systems that support the migration to digital TROs will not be wasted.

We encourage our customers and users to respond to the department’s consultation and engage with this initiative that will underpin important changes to our roads, such as the introduction of autonomous vehicles in the longer term, as well as a host of more immediate benefits including:

  • vastly improved public engagement
  • significant savings from more efficient TRO application and approval processes 
  • better collaboration between highway authorities and utility companies.

Here’s to seizing this fantastic opportunity for our sectors; to usher in a new era of closer collaboration, to deliver wide-reaching benefits for all levels of society and to positioning the country as a global leader for digital road management and smart mobility.

James Harris is the founder and chief executive of one.network
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