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:
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:
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:
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).