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Report calls for strategies on ‘digital local roads’

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A new report has called for action from national government, local authorities and industry to develop a system of ‘digital local roads’ as part of a more effective transport network.

Titled Digital Local Roads, it has been compiled with contributions from organisations including national mapping agency Ordnance Survey, the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy and Planning in local authorities and government backed innovation agency Innovate UK.

It says the term ‘digital roads’ reflects the increasing use of connected technology and data in transport and points to its adoption by the National Highways agency – which has published a vision document – as a means of providing faster and safer journeys on the roads network.

“Digital local roads offer the potential for a step change in the approach taken to delivering a wide range of activities undertaken by local authorities in the management of their networks, and the services provided,” it says. “But there is no established strategy or plan to achieve this.”

It acknowledges that councils face major barriers in regard to funding and collaboration, but says there has to be an effort to deal with issues around budgetary pressures on the transport industry and climate change.

Vision and collaboration

The report outlines a need for a strategic vision and the fostering of collaboration with the industry to develop digital local roads, and lays out key actions for the three groups of stakeholders.

For national government, it says there is a need for a strategy and roadmap, along with the development of a business case and new funding models, the updating of relevant standards and regulations and the development of a definition of a national network.

Local authorities should also develop their own strategies and action plans, along with contracts that can support innovation, deploy virtual teams to develop skills at a regional level, and collaborate with other stakeholders.

The industry involves three groups, one being term contractors which should pro-actively take digital roads solutions to local authorities. Technology developers should use centralised initiatives and funding to develop and deploy applications across large numbers of local authorities, and communications and original equipment manufacturers should also work with councils and industry partners to support standards and the exchange of relevant data.

The report also conveys a vision for 2030 in which local authorities are working with industry to develop technologies and using tools to analyse and share data, which should be nationally references and widely accessible. There is also a need to resolve legal, privacy, security and technical issues.

It was authored by transport software and research company TRL.

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