Road Network Operations
& Intelligent Transport Systems
A guide for practitioners!

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Business Framework

Network operations are generally split into several bodies that are responsible for different parts of the road hierarchy: urban networks are owned and operated by city councils, peri-urban networks by city councils or Regional bodies, and motorway networks by Regional bodies, Transport ministries publicly-owned companies or private concessionaires.

The challenge for the public sector managers of the transportation system is significant. Their approach in operating a complex system requires making the road user/customer the focal point. Many constraints and challenges are revealed with this focus related to the need to constantly assess performance and thus develop appropriate and accurate tools and indicators to assess performance. Technology development is increasingly rapid and a constant appreciation of the latest means of data collection and tools for dissemination is essential. (See Measuring Performance) In addition network managers need to develop appropriate organizational structures, budgeting approaches and operational procedures appropriate to the complexities of the network they control. (See Strategic PlanningFinance and Contracts and Operational Activities)

Operations planning

The organisational structure for integrated road network operations over a wide area is likely to focus on the development of coordinated operations between different road and transport operators as the primary goal.

Planning can be carried out in two stages:

Stage 1. This involves making a detailed analysis of traffic load on the network and the current level of operations, to identify problems and define response strategies. The objective is to develop operational objectives and requirements for the five main areas of RNO activity. 

The analysis will need to look at current operating patterns, traffic volumes, accident analysis, and other factors relevant to the local situation.

A study of the existing organisational set-up is needed backed up with a survey of problems encountered (incident numbers, magnitude and frequency). Based on the results, the main requirements of an operating policy can be defined.

Stage 2. An operations programme will be devised in response to the problems identified. The purpose will be to organise and develop organisational capability in the areas of safety and road operations, in order to improve the agency's capabilities and provide users with consistent service levels.

Strategies to be implemented need to be fine-tuned; the allocation of roles and responsibilities agreed between the various actors; and the required organisational structure specified. If a department dedicated to network operations is to be created the plan should specify the necessary human and financial resources.

Within the organisation, those sections with direct responsibility for network operations must be identified together and assigned tasks in order to:

  • improve the quality of services provided (information to road users and communications in particular)
  • establish an understanding with external partners
  • foster a culture of road safety and operations among all players, starting in the design phase of a project

Activities linked to road operations should also be included as part of any strategic initiative conducted by the department, such as service delivery projects and quality initiatives. It is useful to identify specialised, complementary units each with its own tasks and responsibilities and define the necessary interaction between them that can incorporate:

  • local issues
  • target levels of service
  • necessary changes in occupations
  • training needs
  • available and planned resources

It is recommended that staff engaged in network operations should organise or take part in training activities and periodic meetings to discuss experience or exchange information. Operators must be subject to continual evaluation through adoption of performance level assessment. (See Planning and Reporting)

Identifying External Partners

The goal here is to determine all partners to be involved in operating the road, their organisation and jurisdiction, so they can work effectively in handling disruptions and managing crises. The objective is service optimisation (achieving time-savings and efficiency in handling disruptions) as well as a better profile and recognition of the service. Co-operation between partners should lead to enhanced interaction, defining and formalising their respective roles. (See Inter-agency Working)

Evaluation and Feed-back

There is a growing need for continual evaluation and feed-back on the effectiveness of network operations stemming from the following:

Transport policy/programme context: The role of the Network Operator has changed significantly in the recent years. It has moved from a construction-oriented organization and mandate, to a performance and efficiency-oriented role. Various reforms, performance based budgets and privatisation has been implemented. To guarantee the policy outcome, evaluation is proving to be much more important. (See Evaluation)

Result-oriented management: Recent changes in the ways of administration are now demanding a result-oriented management with emphasis on the PDCA cycle (Plan, Do, Check, Act) to spiral up services and technologies.

Enhanced accountability to the public: Accountability, not only to the public but also to the relevant stakeholders, is becoming important for the road network operator to ensure transparency of policies/programs and to gain public support for traffic management and network operations projects. In particular, evaluation can support budget procurement, which is an immediate requirement before an RNO project can be launched. For these reasons, countries like USA and UK are among those that actively release data and information from performance evaluations into the public domain.

Investment appraisal: Investment in new technologies and services needs to bring direct benefits to road users as well as the road owners and operators. Evaluation of operations should cover those issues that are directly and indirectly linked to users. The other purpose is to look at the business case for developing ITS technologies and services. A well-planned evaluation will contribute to an elaboration of how to improve technology, how to widen service range, how to raise the quality of ITS services. (See Project Appraisal)

Issues for Developing Countries

There is a general trend in developed countries to transfer activities from the public to the private sector and additionally divest control from the central/federal level to state/regional/local. The objective is generally to improve efficiency by introducing flexibility and devolve decision-making powers closer to the real problems. At the same time this policy introduces new types of difficulties for ITS deployment: namely the fragmentation of responsibilities that can present difficulties for developing continuous services integrated operations and seamless travel facilities.

To counter-balance this problem, new types of actions are introduced such as:

  • standardisation of the work and role of road operations nationally
  • development of ITS framework architectures that may allow ITS projects to develop at the local level while ensuring interoperability

In addition, ITS requires the development of telecommunication backbones that will help to overcome this kind of obstacle. (See Building ITS Capacity)


Reference sources

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