Listening to the road user
Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus, looks forward to the launch at Highways UK of the Strategic Roads User Survey (SRUS) - the independent road user watchdog's most significant roads survey since becoming engaged with the sector in 2015.
Adopting the maxim "what gets measured gets managed" implies by association that what hasn't been tracked or measured properly is missed and consequently doesn't get managed effectively.
In the transport sector, listening to the views of passengers and other road users is essential if operators are to find out - and deliver - what their customers need or want. It follows from this that measuring satisfaction forms a crucial element of understanding what the issues that really matter. It also helps those providing transport infrastructure and services to manage and to plan real, positive changes for the user.
Consequently, user satisfaction research has become a core activity for Transport Focus over the many years it has worked to bring the voice of the user to those who provide rail, bus and tram services. Since 2015, the organisation has also represented the interests of those using the A roads and the Strategic Road Network managed by Highways England. Since being given this expanded remit we have undertaken many research studies focusing on a range of issues relevant to road users, all of which are available on our website.
These include topics such as users' experiences and needs when caught up in delays; disruption caused by incidents or roadworks; their views on using smart motorways; and even the perennial road surface quality.
Earlier this year we published the second edition of our annual Motorway Services User Survey (MSUS), which enabled the industry to see how motorway users rate the facilities they are offered at service areas up and down the country. Results have already informed some major improvements for users and will help to drive up satisfaction further over time.
Transport Focus also knows that our motorways and A roads are used by many different people, with varying needs and expectations. That is why we will be publishing more research in the coming months looking at the experience of disabled road users, as well as that examining how to measure the satisfaction of cyclists, pedestrians and equestrians who use, travel alongside or cross over these roads.
At this year's Highways UK, we will launch the Strategic Roads User Survey (SRUS) - our most significant survey of road user opinion since we became engaged with the sector in 2015. It is an entirely new national survey, with results available on the new Transport Focus data hub, that will provide useful information to Highways England and others in the sector, helping them focus on improving the things that matter to road users. Meanwhile, the current National Road Users' Satisfaction Survey(NRUSS) will continue until March 2020.
SRUS is far more than just a replacement for NRUSS, however. It has been built differently, gathers data from interviews with far more road users from across the country, and will support more detailed analysis. SRUS will allow data to be interrogated or 'sliced' in many different ways, depending on individual needs - for example by road, region, time of travel and category of road user. This ensures that anyone, from a fleet manager to a maintenance contractor or member of the public, can go in via the online data hub to examine information from a range of perspectives. Overall satisfaction, journey time, management of roadworks, road surface quality, feelings about safety and driver information at both a national, regional or even specific road level will all be available at the touch of a button.
By providing a more sophisticated means to access a wealth of data about road user satisfaction, we believe that Highways England and others will have a much clearer understanding of where they need to concentrate their efforts to meet the expectations and the needs of road users.
Anthony Smith and Roads Minister Jesse Norman MP will launch the new Strategic Roads User Survey (SRUS) on 7 November at 11.10 on the Burges Salmon stage at Highways UK 2018.