New Innovative Technology Introduced on to the Manchester Smart Motorways Scheme
Manchester’s M60 and M62 motorways are currently undergoing some extensive changes as they are upgraded to ‘smart motorways’, promising smoother, more streamlined journeys and better control over traffic flow and density for the future. Huge projects on major routes are often naturally disruptive – and with the upgrade taking place on one of the region’s busiest stretches of motorway, minimising disruption whilst maximising awareness and providing reassurance for motorists was a key concern.
Highways England already had a method of measuring journey times through the works – but they didn’t have anything with the capability to calculate diversion route times. With large sections of the motorway closing, it was important to communicate effectively with the general public so they were aware of the impact the diversions would have on their journey.
This is where traffic technology company Rennicks UK came in. They launched a new innovative journey time solution which requires no roadside technology to gather vital traveller information. Instead, the Rennicks Virtual Journey Time System (RVJTS) makes use of crowd sourced journey time data eliminating the need for on-network infrastructure – simultaneously reducing the risk to road worker safety. Highways England and Virtus supported Rennicks by providing a platform to introduce this new innovative technology onto the Manchester Smart Motorways scheme.
The new smart motorway will run from J8 of the M60 up to J20 of the M62. Using an Advantage 4280 mobile VMS, the Manchester Smart Motorways scheme is displaying journey time messages on the road network, which can be easily read from a distance by oncoming traffic. Using the RVJTS, these digital message-boards update in real time, communicating an accurate journey time for the motorists to complete the diversion routes.
The work carried out required consideration of many diversion routes owing to the sheer distance covered by affected stretches of the motorway. Therefore one key advantage of the RVJTS system for the Manchester Smart Motorways scheme was the ability to swiftly and simply change the routes, keeping motorists up-to-date at all times should unexpected incidents occur. The system also allows controllers to view a variety of alternative diversion routes as opposed to a set number of diversions, which further maximises the versatility, flexibility and sophistication of the system itself. Routes can then be chosen and adapted based on factors such as other roadworks, unexpected traffic volume or disruption and even weather or event-related delays. The project team can also use this information before work begins to better inform drivers and help them to more accurately plan their journey. VMS trailers carrying clearly visible digital message boards can easily be manipulated for optimum positioning – so they can be quickly deployed should updated information need to be communicated in good time. Following programming, accurate journey times can be displayed in just one minute.
“The key benefits of the Rennicks Virtual Journey Time System are its ease of use – as we don’t need to rely on infrastructure to time our diversion routes. It’s safer – as we minimise the amount of time that our lads are on the road; and we can programme the VMS from the desktop in the office or it can be activated from a mobile device. When we programme our diversion routes, within a minute we’ve got an accurate journey time.” – Paul Willis, Senior TSCO
Whilst the system has clear benefits for those in charge of upgrading Manchester’s motorways, the advantages are important for motorists, too. Keeping drivers informed has significant advantages from a road safety perspective, as it enables them to adapt their route to reduce delays and have a less stressful journey as a result.
Rennicks have now rolled the technology out on other high profile schemes where both journey time and delay time reporting is critical – and look forward to further developing the system based on its initial success on this pioneering project.
Click here to find out more about the Rennicks Virtual Journey Time System.