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The managed motorway is a management system for controlling the traffic on the motorways through the use of technology. Tools such as cameras, sensors, structural road designs, transport patterns and various other tools provide useful information that is used to control the traffic on motorways.
For the last many years, Motorway traffic in the world has been growing consistently. In the UK an increase of around 1.5 per cent per annum has been reported. Although high fuel prices and economic problems could slow the growth rate, it is highly likely that Motorway will continue to grow in the upcoming years.
Europe Motorways, in particular, are becoming increasingly congested making it difficult for the public to reach their destination on time. A lot of effort has been made to increase the capacity of existing road networks and one way of doing that is converting hard shoulders into a running lane, reports Paul Unwin in his research paper, ‘‘atm to managed motorways; delivering operational benefits to road users through the introduction of innovative technology solutions“.
For many years, the use of hard shoulders has been discouraged by Traffic Authorities, mainly due to the reason they are unsafe and present a significant risk. Analysts say that safer and more innovative options should be introduced to control ever-growing traffic without spending a fortune.
In the UK, the concept of hard shoulders was introduced in 1959 and since then it has been considered a compulsory feature as it provides for lack of vehicle/motor reliability (Controlled Motorways Highways Agency WebSite, 2012). However, in recent times, this concept has been challenged with new state of art technologies allowing for better control concerning improvements and the motorway environment.
After the successful and meaningful completion of the M-42 Active Traffic Management (ATM) Pilot, the federal government is focusing solely on making better use of the existing plan rather than spending unwisely on the expensive widening schemes.
Expansion schemes, of course, present a better and more attractive-looking road network but in the long run, it cannot cope with the growing traffic in future (Unwin and Marsh, 2009). The federal government initially decided to address the congestion and journey time issues on M-25 by successfully implementing the M-25 Controlled Motorways scheme.
The project was considered to be a huge success and subsequently the Active Traffic Management and Managed Motorways concept was introduced to make better use of the existing highway facilities to overcome challenges involving regular congestion, safety concerns, insufficient road capacity and inconsistent journey times.
It should be noted that the concept of Active Traffic Management has been developed after the successful completion of the M-25 Controlled Motorways project, making it a reliable and durable traffic design programme.
The main objective of the M-25 project was to prove that by better use of technology and existing road networks, congestion, safety concerns and other challenges can be overcome in a cost-effective manner (Controlled Motorways Highways Agency WebSite, 2012). For the first time in the history of the UK, the concept of making a hard shoulder was challenged, proposing that it should be turned into a routine running lane.
Although the concept of the hard shoulder has proven to be a great success over the last many years, laying the foundations for the current Manager Motorways thinking, the time has come to dispose of it to achieve better traffic control.
In this section, we will be looking at various Managed Motorways projects to understand how innovative thinking and better use of technology can help us save valuable time and resources (Noland and Quddus, 2005). New benchmarks offering improved reliability and efficiency have also been set to make the Motorways more safe and beneficial for the users.
Figure 1: Motorway Cameras installed to give live coverage to the management team
The concept of Controlled Motorways was first introduced in 1998 to control the ever-growing traffic on M25. By putting up speed frameworks with supporting lane signalling at every 1000 meters, the Traffic Agency ensured the traffic speed could be controlled and start-stop behaviour reduced.
By reducing the flow Interruptions, a considerable increase in capacity was also observed. After the scheme was implemented successful, it produced some staggering results (Unwin and Marsh, 2009). A 15 percent reduction in personal injury accidents was reported. Some called for the concept to be further developed to solve traffic and congestion problems across the country.
M-42 Active Traffic Management Pilot or ATM Pilot played a big part in changing the government’s policies towards traffic control. By the end of the 1990s, the Traffic Agencies had started to realise the importance of making better use of the existing land rather than the expensive widening techniques that gave less value for money and had a big impact on the general public and the environment. Furthermore, the widening schemes presented a lot of traffic management issues during road construction, making it infamous among the general public.
In order to find an effective and efficient solution to congestion and safety issues, the concept of the M-42 ATM Pilot was introduced, which allowed the drivers to use the hard shoulder as an additional running lane for the first time in the UK. The project proved to be a breakthrough as it helped reduce traffic load in peak times by delivering hard running on M-42.
Like M-25 Managed Motorways, the ATM provided gantries at a nominal 500 m spacing to control the speeds of the vehicles. The framework was designed in a way that it enhanced the visibility of the signs and signals so the road users could follow the rules and regulations (Unwin and Marsh, 2009). After the project was implemented, it was clear that the success of Managed Motorway Schemes is largely dependent on drivers’ behaviours in addition to speed control. Therefore, it is vital to deliver a timely message to the driver to ensure he is not left in the doubt as to what to do.
The UK Transport Secretary has already issued £6 billion in funding to bring improvement in the existing motorways network in the country. The lessons learnt while implementing the M-42 ATM Pilot and M-25 MM will be used as pillars of road improvement programs in the future.
It is now safe to say that the success of the M-42 ATM pilot was made possible by overcoming several operational and technical obstacles. Best practices were utilized following international standards to make the development process reliable and safer.
Even the message sign and signals technology were not proven and a considerable amount of work had to be done on it to make it a reliable and successful operation. The objectives of the scheme were to provide safer and better road networks and better use of the existing land.
Following are the success factors
It should be noted that these success factors cannot be fed into the design process without considering the objectives and requirements of a particular project (Unwin and Marsh, 2009). There it is vital to understand the objectives before finalizing the operational approach. The design engineer and his team are usually responsible to consider every aspect of the process to deliver the desired outcome for their clients.
Figure 2: Motorway Management Team Office and data centre
The concept of Managed Motorways has resulted in several benefits for both the users and the traffic agencies. Consistent journey times and increased capacity are the two main benefits of Managed Motorways.
Implementation of Managed Motorways and opening of hard shoulders on congested sections of motorways can also deliver similar results as produced by the M-42 ATM scheme.
The ATM Pilot scheme has opened up several opportunities for the Highways Agencies including managing the road networks as a whole rather than as individual elements.
The concept has also allowed better traffic control by feeding relative information into systems enabling predictive signal settings. Therefore it helped the congestion from happening in the first place. Perhaps, this will area of technology will be the focus of attention in the future as we start to tackle operational management.
For the last many years, not knowing how long it will take to get to a particular destination has remained a major frustration for the driving public. Therefore, the Managed Motorways concept also looks at making the Journey Time consistent.
It should be noted that MM does not guarantee a shorter journey time but it gives reliable and consistent expected times to help the users to take out their frustration.
Looking at the traffic data for the twelve months after the implementation of the ATM Pilot, it was revealed that the journey time variations were reduced by a staggering 16 % when all signals and signs were operational (Noland and Quddus, 2005). A drop of 60 per cent was recorded during the peak times on Friday, usually considered the busiest day of the week. Drivers do not mind a minor increase in the journey times as long as they get to the destination on the expected time, several public surveys have disclosed. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the importance of Managed Motorways as it maximizes the benefits in terms of journey time.
Furthermore, the frequency of the traffic dropping below 25mph has decreased considerably with Managed Motorways, showing a reduction in flow breakdown has helped the traffic agency predict accurate journey times.
Figure 3: Operational Excellence achieved through Motorway Management
Improved and consistent journey times are highly dependent on an increased capacity, which Managed Motorways aim to deliver (Noland and Quddus, 2005). By having better speed and lance control over the traffic, the road’s potential capacity can be increased significantly.
Placing a control speed environment once can reduce unnecessary braking from the drivers. With the MM scheme in place, flows of more than 2000 vehicles per hour per lane have been observed as compared to the traditional value of 1800 vehicles per hour. The use of hard shoulders as a running lane for the users has increased the overall capacity of the Motorways and having a controlled traffic environment has made the roads safer than before.
Similarly, with 4 lanes, the distribution of traffic has been improved by improving lane utilization on the Motorways. Around 12 percent of the total drivers have used hard shoulder as a result of the messages displayed on the frameworks, thus resulting in better traffic distribution. More research is needed in this area of work to achieve better capacity numbers.
As we have discussed earlier that better lane utilization and speed control smoothes the traffic operations on the Motorways. Smooth traffic, in return, results in minimum casualties and personal injuries on the roads (Noland and Quddus, 2005). Furthermore, the M42 ATM was designed with objectives in mind; Drivers’ safety and more capacity.
The M42 ATM Pilot is now considered the safest section of Motorways in the UK. According to the data provided by the Traffic control authority, the average number of personal injury accidents has reduced considerably on Managed sections of Motorways with a decrease of nearly 3 accidents per month.
Additionally, speed compliance has played a big part in making operations safe on the motorways. Having a controlled speed and traffic behaviour has also helped achieve several traffic benefits (Noland and Quddus, 2005). A robust and well-designed signalling regime also deserves a lot of credit as it displayed the benefits of following rules and therefore making compliance high under all speed limits.
Figure 4: Safety in well-managed motorways plays a key role
Optimized use of the existing road networks is one of the benefits provided by the Managed motorway system. The managed motorway systems have a lower impact on the environment as compared to traditional road widening/development schemes (Anh et al, 2009). Furthermore, it ensures better traffic flows during the construction phase and reduces noise pollution
Much research has been done in recent years to assess the impact of the pollution produced by road users in urban areas. Many of these researchers concluded that motor vehicles produce the largest share of the overall air pollution in the said areas (Anh et al, 2009). Managed motorways systems bring in rules/procedures that accommodate the recommendations provided in the research conclusions for example reduced speed limits and vehicle management systems. This can have an influencing impact on reducing the air pollution on many of the managed motorways.
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The managed motorway is an operating system that is used to manage and control road congestion and traffic flows on highways. This system benefits in terms of overall traffic performance. It provides many other benefits that include the provision of safety on motorways, real times based traffic data, travels information, excellent management of congestion and overall traffic; through the use state of the art technology e.g. cameras, electrical display signs and speed measurement devices.