Road Network Operations
& Intelligent Transport Systems
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Integrated Operations

Road users want a safe, reliable, seamless journey. They are not interested in the geographical boundaries between one road owner and another, just a safe and predictable journey from point A to point B. However, journeys are made across geographical boundaries, most likely using roads that are owned and managed by more than one road or traffic agency, or which are the responsibility of different administrations.

When things go wrong – bad weather, accidents, congestion, roadway repairs and other incidents – road users expect “the authorities” to take action to minimise the inconvenience. In addition road users have come to expect smooth inter-modal transfers for passengers and freight at transfer points and international gateways – bus, rail and tram stations, ferry-terminals, airports, inland waterway and seaports and road-rail terminals.

By implication, road network operations that are fully integrated over a wide area:

  • need to be multi-modal and multi-jurisdictional
  • are local,  regional, national and international
  • involve local, regional and national authorities, and their concession-holders
  • use different levels of infrastructure (local, suburban, rural and national)
  • involve cooperation between agencies on traffic management and traveller information

Integrated road network operations are characterised by the involvement of many organisations in the delivery of road network services to road users. Exactly which organisation and agencies have to be involved will depend on a number of factors, among them:

  • the nature of the road operations that are required, most importantly safety, congestion management, traffic and travel information, incident response
  • which organisations have responsibility for different parts of the road hierarchy (such as freeways, urban expressways, other highways and urban roadways) and for different function (such as control room staff, mobile patrols, and enforcement of traffic laws)
  • the geographical extent of those organisations’ responsibilities and the operational interfaces that are needed with adjacent areas
  • any significant transport mode interchanges that have to be served (bus and transit stations, ports, airports, freight distribution hubs, railway stations)
  • whether there are enterprises that generate large concentrations of traffic on the network, either by location and/or at particular times (such as quarries and other mineral extraction, freight distribution centres, sporting arenas, recreational areas, and major shopping centres)
  • the nature of the traffic mix using the network – some classes of traffic such as freight movements or international traffic may present special needs

Effective road network operations therefore demand functional, organisational and inter-jurisdictional coordination, in order to secure cooperation, integration and interoperability of traffic operations within a given geographic region and with its neighbours.

Effective consultation and on-going cooperation is needed between all the partners concerned: police, call-out services, control centre operators, etc. Moreover, as traffic demand grows and road network operations become more sophisticated the operational needs increasingly need to be taken into account in the design and development stage of the infrastructure.

Area-wide integrated network operations combine the common goals of road management - to improve traffic safety and traffic fluency - with better end-to-end journey times, journey time reliability, driver safety and comfort. A proper route hierarchy, signage and navigation have an important part to play. In addition, increasing efforts are being made to minimise adverse environmental impacts like traffic noise, fumes, NOx and carbon emissions and community severance effects.

In summary, the essential features of an integrated approach to road network operations are as follows:

  • coverage of a network that has its geographical limits defined according to the road users’ needs, not by administrative boundaries
  • connections between operations that may be multi-modal, multi-jurisdictional, multi-national (possibly involving local, regional, national authorities and concession-holders, depending on the locality)
  • operations that will integrate different levels of the road hierarchy in response to patterns of use and traffic demand (rural, local or national roads)
  • institutional and organisational arrangements that can achieve effective interaction and inter-agency cooperation on traffic management, traffic control and travel information

The logical outcome of this shared responsibility is the need to establish partnerships. In their organisational, financial and legal aspects, partnerships are often beset with very challenging issues. Not only is it necessary to analyse the particular needs, operational constraints and priorities of each party but it is also essential to define a clear division of roles and responsibilities among the partners, be they from the public or private sectors. Through this approach, the best options for the functional, logical and physical architecture can be drawn up and formalised as the institutional framework for integrated operations (See Inter-Agency Working).

Reference sources

World Road Association Technical Committee on Road Network Operations (2016). Uses of ITS Including Consideration of Planning for Future Improvements, Upgrades and the Economy. Report 2016R10 World Road Association (PIARC) Paris. ISBN 978-2-84060-391-7. Available from the Internet site of the World Road Association