If you were to drive on one of England’s motorways today (and please don’t, unless you are a key worker and have no choice) two things would strike you as odd. The first, of course, is how little traffic there is. The second is what Highways England’s big matrix signs are telling you.
Ordinarily, the signs would tell you about traffic incidents, delays, severe weather conditions and other safety notices. Now they also report on the operational status of motorway service stations. Roadside facilities, like service stations and garages, are an integral part of the customer experience. All Motorway Service Areas and other roadside facilities on the strategic road network are open providing, fuel, drinks, takeaway food, toilets and parking. Customers at service stations should follow government advice about social distancing.
The status of motorway service areas is important information for long distance hauliers who are putting in the all the hours that they can, and who need to plan their journeys carefully for efficiency, safety and wellbeing. That’s why, as well as updating the signage with the latest information, Network Information Services Ltd - a joint venture between Thales and WSP formed to support Highways England - has created a new web page giving the latest updates. The page, which can be found at Traffic England gives a colour-coded at-a-glance status of the 118 motorway service stations in England.
“It is vital that we keep the lorries moving,” said Robert McConnell, of Network Information Services, which is responsible for implementing and maintaining the changes. “If even a single lorry that’s carrying medical supplies or goods for the supermarket is delayed, or is caught out because one or more service stations are closed, there will be a real impact on people’s lives.”
Rapid responses to a national transport challenge
Major additions to a live web site usually take a few weeks, and often more. It’s not just a case of creating and posting it, careful checks must be made to validate the design across various platforms and to make sure that it doesn’t interfere with anything else. But this was needed immediately. Recognising the urgency, Network Information Services pulled out all the stops and managed to go live within just one week.
But even with this extra workload, Network Information Services still finds the time to add messages of support to the motorway signs, including the campaign to clap for the NHS and other key workers, and to post reminders about the need to stay at home save lives.
Being a haulier isn’t glamourous, but it is every bit as essential as all of our other key workers. Let’s all remember that when we put our hands together at 8:00 pm every Thursday.
Read more about how WSP is delivering better highways here.