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Sam Forsdick

Reporter

Roadwork data released under new government scheme will help drivers avoid traffic jams

A new government-backed street management system will provide open data on roadworks to minimise disruption and help drivers avoid traffic jams.

There were an estimated 1.35m traffic jams on the UK’s major roads between 2016/17, costing drivers an estimated £9bn, according to an INRIX study.

The Department for Transport is investing £10m in a new data sharing service, dubbed Street Manager, to tackle this problem and help bring these figures down.

The data system will provide a more consistent and up-to-date view of the 2.5 million roadworks that take place in England each year.

The Street Manager system will be updated with information on roadwork plans from local authorities and utilities companies which will then be made available online for apps and satnav providers, such as Waze, Apple Maps and Google, to use for free.

The Department for Transport has suggested that this data could be used to send push-notifications to motorists or help satnavs to identify alternative routes. A spokesperson for the department said the data could be used to “inform new products” or “help improve” existing ones.

They added: “Google already tries to map this data but it is quite inaccurate and often crowdsourced whereas this new system, which will come into place next year, will mean it’s all reliable data from one source.”

The Street Manager map will also help local authorities and utilities to see all planned and live works as well as other information about the street to support better planning and coordination.

Although currently in beta, the Street Manager system is undergoing tests and the government hope it will be available from next year.

It will replace the current “costly and ineffective” system – called Electronic Transfer of Notifications – which is used for managing roadworks and was originally developed in the 1990s.

Roads Minister Jesse Norman said: “The data opened up by this new digital service should enable motorists to plan their journeys better, so they can avoid works and get to their destinations more easily.”

It was also suggested that this data could be used by connected vehicle manufacturers. NS Tech revealed that the government was exploring the use of 5G connectivity to allow self-driving cars to communicate with each other in real-time. The data from Street Manager could also be incorporated to help such vehicles avoid roadworks.

Peter Wells, head of policy at the Open Data Institute, welcomed the move, describing it as a “step in the right direction”.

“Building data infrastructure which is as open as possible can help deliver better services for citizens, consumers and businesses,” he added. “It’s important that as well as building Street Manager, DfT helps to build an ecosystem of organisations who can use the data to create services that help people make better decisions, such as when to plan roadworks or what route to take on a journey.”