Network Management Duty Statement
Reducing traffic congestion in the West Midlands Metropolitan Area is one of the main policy issues highlighted in strategic reports such as the Regional Transport Strategy, the West Midlands Area Multi-Modal Study and our 2003 LTP. Independently, the West Midlands Chamber of Commerce has commented that transport, movement and accessibility are amongst the principal issues concerning local businesses. Reassurances that these issues are being addressed form an integral part of business and investment commitments in the region.
The Traffic Management Act, 2004 (TMA) places new network management duties on local highway authorities. The main duty is to secure the expeditious movement of traffic, inclusive of cyclists and pedestrians, on the authoritys road network and on road networks for which another authority is the traffic authority. The TMA requires each highway authority to appoint a Traffic Manager who is responsible for meeting this duty. The introduction of the TMA illustrates the need for action at local authority level.
The new powers that the TMA gives to local highway authorities will be important in delivering LTP2 Objectives. They will be a major aid in economic regeneration and will contribute towards the Transport Shared Priority themes of reducing congestion and improving air quality. The powers may, in certain circumstances, improve accessibility and road safety as well as quality of life.
The West Midlands Position
The Metropolitan Authorities have made significant investments in Urban Traffic Control (UTC) and in technology-led traffic management solutions. There is now a need and desire to build on this investment across the Area. Before the introduction of the TMA, the Authorities had taken significant steps to improve network management, tackle congestion and build on existing investment. Two Major Schemes ('Annex E') have been submitted - Red Routes and the Urban Traffic Control. They both set out to make best use of the network and manage congestion, using existing infrastructure. Phase 1 of the Red Routes network received approval in December 2004, while the UTC Scheme requires further work and will be re-submitted for approval in 2005.
In light of the above, we propose to incrementally develop a regional traffic management concept. It will move forward on all fronts - institutional, operational and infrastructure - in a way that addresses staffing and operational needs as well as the capital infrastructure. UTC centres in the West Midlands Region will be called upon to increase their level of service.
In direct response to the new network management duties and the greater level of service delivery, the role and responsibility of each authoritys Traffic Manager is under review. In order to achieve effective network management and cross boundary operations, a Traffic Management Group has been formed to provide a common approach and resource. This group will co-ordinate the introduction of the Traffic Management Act across the Areas highways, share good practice, provide support and advice, and enable neighbouring authorities to liaise over cross boundary matters.
It is recognised that effective traffic management cannot be achieved in isolation. The Metropolitan Area sits at the heart of the countrys strategic road network. It is the largest conurbation and has some of the worst traffic congestion outside London. The proximity to the urban network of the M5, M6 and M42 motorways, known as the Birmingham Box, requires coordinated traffic management strategies. This can only be achieved by the Authorities working in partnership with the Highways Agency in several areas, namely:
- development of the Birmingham Box Route Management Strategy
- network management information exchange with the National Traffic Control Centre
- shared operational facilities with the Western Midlands Regional Control Centre
- strategic links with the Highways Agencys managing agents
- the Highways Agency Information Point (HAIP) pilot project
- participation in the Road Information Framework (RIF) West Midlands Pilot Project
Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) will play a major role in meeting the network management duty. The Metropolitan Authorities have a history of involvement with ITS. Many implemented Urban Traffic Control systems in the 1970s. The Authorities have continued to implement ITS solutions to manage traffic growth. More recently, they have played an important part in the European Research & Technological Development framework programmes and the Urban Traffic Management and Control (UTMC) research programme.
Since 1996, the Metropolitan Authorities have invested in and developed the MATTISSE traffic and travel information system that forms a common ITS platform across the Authorities, West Midlands Police, the Highways Agency Media and other transport operators. The system employs state-of-the-art technology built upon UTMC and Travel Information Highway standards and principles. Whilst the primary focus of MATTISSE has been to provide travel information, with further development the system is ideally placed to provide a technology platform in support of TMA duties and the delivery of E-Government Priority Outcomes for transportation.
Meeting the new requirements requires a significant change in development of the system. This is reflected in the strategy for 2005-2010, which will see MATTISSE effectively split into two operational levels. The first will be to continue to provide real time travel information to the public via the Help2Travel service. The second will be to provide a Network Information and Management System to support the new network management duties and the Traffic Officers Group. MATTISSE will continue to be publicly promoted as 'Help2Travel', whilst the network management system will be given a new identity that reflects its role in assisting the Authorities.
Monitoring & Evaluation
The West Midlands has led the development of the ITIS monitoring system. We will use this and the developing MATTISSE system to monitor progress in improving network operations.