Visits to council websites about highways represent around 2-3% of all visits according to Socitm data, and are part of the wider ‘mobility’ category of services (including parking, streetworks, transport and buses) that is the single biggest category of council web visits after rubbish and recycling. Roadworks are an inconvenience to road users, and people are looking for up-to-date information about those that will affect them for one off journeys, but particularly those that are part of daily or weekly routines. As significant, in the context of Better Connected, is that most councils are using or linking to externally provided tools to offer roadworks information, and that this is increasingly presented on maps.
English, Scottish and Welsh unitary councils
This test has many of the same questions as the one carried out last year, but has been applied to English, Scottish and Welsh unitary councils rather than English county councils. That test was conducted on a mobile device whereas this one was done on the desktop, arguably an easier task.
Despite this, whereas 85% of counties achieved three or four stars last year, this year only 70% of our cohort did so. The overall result masks significant differences between the performance of Scottish councils with 84% scoring three or four stars but only 73% of English councils and just 27% of Welsh councils.
In last year’s report we noted a significant jump in county council results for Find out about roadworks from 2014, when only 48% of county councils achieved the equivalent of three or four stars. The difference, we said, is that most sites now embed the roadworks.org map and facilities into their websites to provide the information covered by this test, with individual and overall results are greatly influenced by how well this service has been integrated into the website. Arrangements in Scotland are different, but many sites also rely on centralised solutions.
Check ‘coverage’ to see if your council has been surveyed. Go to councils page and select your council. Look for link to task report under 2017-18 results
Provide a good or very good online service based on this survey
Better connected rankings
*Discrepancies in the figures are due to rounding off
Based on our search term ‘XYZ Council roadworks’, 96% of our Google searches landed on a relevant page. This leaves just five councils with the service ‘not found’, of which two, Isles of Scilly and the Western Isles might be forgiven for not being much pre-occupied with roadworks. The others, one in England and two in Wales should explore why their roadworks information was not found.
The focus of any roadworks page or section on the council website should be on providing clear information on current and planned roadworks, allowing users to get to that information quickly but with enough supporting information and guidance to be able to use and understand what they are looking at.
Councils that started with a long introduction about their legal responsibilities in co-ordinating roadworks in their area slowed the user journey and often then provided a link to a roadworks mapping facility with little or no supporting guidance about it.
Almost all councils now use a mapping interface to display roadworks: in England and Wales this was almost always Elgin (Roadworks.org), and in Scotland the Scottish Roadworks Register.
The Elgin map is fairly easy to use: the main issues uncovered were when our reviewer tested the mobile presentation for our question 8 Can use the map on a mobile to find the same information as on the desktop easily and without errors?
There were problems on 41% of sites, where, for example, the map might not display any icons on initial presentation and it wasn’t easy to tell whether this meant that there were no roadworks in the area, or zooming was needed. South Gloucestershire was the only site that suggested that the map would work better on a mobile in a horizontal view.
A significant proportion of sites linked only to the home page of roadworks.org which made for a cumbersome experience in getting to roadworks in the local area. When using a mobile device, our reviewer was usually prompted to share their location - helpful when looking for roadworks close to their current location, but not otherwise.
Very few sites explained up front what the envelope icon means – users could assume that it would be for contacting the provider, not for signing up for email alerts about future roadworks in a specific, user-defined area.
Many of the sites in Wales were using a version of Elgin that only presented the details of council organised roadworks on the desktop version of the site: for mobile users the icons were present but the information stated that no information was available because the authority had not signed up to the premium service.
This partially accounted for a less satisfactory experience in surveying Welsh sites. In Scotland the experience was also generally compromised because the Scottish Roadworks Register offered a less user-friendly experience. In most cases the scope of the external sites that were linked to was not explained, so the differences between the three services, Scottish Roadworks Register, Tell Me Scotland and Transport Scotland were not made clear.
Renfrewshire provides some helpful text in relation to the three sites and a disclaimer:
“For a list of local road works requiring diversions, Temporary Traffic Regulation Orders (TTRO), road closures, special events and Traffic Regulation Orders (TRO) Renfrewshire please, visit the Tell Me Scotland website.
The lists won't always show works being carried out by the utility companies such as Scottish Power or BT, except those which could cause major disruption. To see these, visit the Scottish Roadworks Register.
Transport Scotland are responsible for the trunk roads in Renfrewshire and across Scotland. For a list of road works on their network, visit the Traffic Scotland website.
The lists show expected start dates, end dates and duration of events that may affect routes. However, the information may change due to unforeseen circumstances and because of this cannot be guaranteed. We apologise for any inconvenience caused but cannot accept liability for any such inconvenience.”
When linking to external sites such as roadworks.org or the Scottish Roadworks Register, we recommend:
The most comprehensive sites provide lists of current roadworks, usually updated weekly, as an alternative to using a map. Lists published as web pages are the most accessible. While lists almost always offered start dates and duration or end dates, and usually the name of the company responsible, it was disappointing how frequently the contact details in case of problems were not readily displayed.
Information major schemes in train or being planned was made accessible from the roadworks sections on the best sites. Sometimes this involved publishing some unwieldy documents, so an overview of the scheme and its milestones on web pages is helpful. Bournemouth was notable for having a blog charting the progress of one major scheme within its footprint.
Many sites appeared to have a twitter account dedicated to highways and transport and embedded the latest tweets in the roadworks section.
It wasn’t usually hard to find the roadworks page whether from the home page, Google, or the A-Z. Including the verb ‘find’ in the internal search engine search for ‘find roadworks’ appeared to trip up a few sites however.
We tested how easy it was to navigate from the roadworks page to information about gritting on a mobile. Some sites proved harder to use where the mobile presentation dropped menus were dropped completely, making it impossible to navigate up to a landing page or to related pages. On such sites the user has to go to the home page and navigate from there.
The information is very well signposted with roadworks clearly listed as a topic on the home page. The page on roadworks is succinct but contains a very good introduction to the map, explains email alerts and provides a downloadable user guide. Excellent.
City of Cardiff
This site was simple but answered almost all of our questions and had clear signposting.
A very quick and easy journey here, and easy to find my way to gritting routes on the mobile. The introduction explains about signing up for email alerts. The map is centered on Luton, shows diversions and looks thorough. Simple and very concise.
Full marks for this site that provides plenty of useful information and advice on the council site and comprehensive facilities on the external Travel West website. As well as maps there is a journey planner covering different modes of transport. Diversion routes are not described in the listings of roadworks but I did see one marked on the Elgin map. Major schemes are described in some detail. A very comprehensive service for this topic.
The site scores very well here, covering our topic in detail lacking on other sites. For example, it explains the difference between the three external services well enough: 'All road works including temporary road closures can be found on the Scottish Roadworks Register, Roadworks Scotland. For information on motorway and trunk roads including M9, M80, A82(T), A84(T), A85(T) please refer to Traffic Scotland.'