Once she gets on the motorway, traffic flows okay most of the time; there are points of congestion, but the smart motorway system does a reasonable job of keeping things moving. What causes the delay to Tammy’s journey is worsening traffic on the road approaching the large roundabout that leads onto the motorway itself. 

Tammy used to be able to skip through this section of her journey in ten minutes – provided she was through before 8am – but now she is finding the same section busy from 7:30am. Leaving earlier means more pressure to get her 18-month-old daughter, Erica, to the childminder. 

One day, to Tammy’s surprise, she received a message from her regional transport planner. She registered for the trial of a new digital roads system through a smart phone app a few months ago but had forgotten all about it. 

The transport planner explained that a new digital roads system (they described it as a digital twin) had been using the data Tammy consented to share about her journey via the app and combined it with data from other registered users and a variety of information from the roads themselves. The system had flagged the increasing congestion that was causing delays to Tammy’s journey. 

The planner said they had run a range of simulations in the digital model and had identified some options they would test to help improve Tammy’s journey each morning. These included changing the timing of traffic signals on other surrounding roads and slowing the traffic slightly on the smart motorway section just ahead of Tammy’s junction to smooth the flow of traffic from the slip road leading from the roundabout onto the motorway. 

During the next week, Tammy noticed that congestion on some days were worse than others as the planner tried to fine-tune the different options. After that, week-by-week it was clear that congestion leading up to the roundabout was improving and was even better than it was six months ago. Even on rainy days, which Tammy used to dread because of all the extra cars that seemed to be on the road, the traffic did not seem to get particularly bad. 

Tammy still doesn’t know exactly what the planner did to improve things, but she does appreciate the personal contact and the fact that their changes meant she didn’t have to leave quite so early for work. Her childminder appreciates that Tammy is less rushed – and therefore less stressed – when she drops off Erica each morning, and also notices that Erica arrives more settled too. That means everybody enjoys a better start to the day and is more productive as a result. 

Read the other articles in our series hereRead how WSP connects people for the future here

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