Running Virtual Motorways

Active Traffic Management (ATM) on the M42 has shown how the ‘managed motorway’ approach delivers reduced congestion, better journey times and improved local air quality. This is achieved by using measures such as opening up the hard shoulder and introducing variable speed limits at peak times. Decisions made by the Highways Agency’s traffic controllers are crucial to the effectiveness of the approach. The aim of the project is to understand better how traffic responds to measures used by controllers, and to ensure that the right balance is struck between minimizing average journey times and the need to avoid flow breakdown and the resulting traffic jams.

Risk Solutions is working with Maelstrom and Dr Mark Young (a Human Factors expert from Brunel University) to develop a simulated version of the M42 ATM section. This will replicate traffic flows under different conditions (traffic volumes, lighting and weather conditions) and show how vehicles react to measures employed by traffic controllers. The aim is to produce a realistic prototype that will include a workstation similar to that used by controllers – including the ability to select CCTV images from any of the 200+ cameras located on the route and data displays on traffic volumes and speeds. Controllers will be able to control flows onto the motorway, switch on hard shoulder running, display variable message signs and change the speed limit. Simulated data will be used, but this could be based on traffic conditions on an actual day so that different ways of managing an emerging situation can be compared.