It is estimated that time lost due to congestion costs the Greater Bristol economy around £350 million a year, with this figure set to grow as traffic levels continue to rise. Poor air quality, delays and unreliable journey times place huge pressure on the city's infrastructure and services, with the transport infrastructure playing a vital role in the city's continued prosperity.
Against this background, Bristol City Council (BCC) continues to invest heavily in its transport network and the development of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), enabling engineers to make better use of the available road network. Bristol's Traffic Control Service was relaunched in 2017 as part of the new Operations Centre, with the team managing the city's road network using a range of ITS tools.
This new centre was the realisation of a long-held ambition to bring together three disparate Control Centres in to a purpose-built, state-of-the-art facility. Keys to the new building were handed over in December 2016 and during 2017, the existing facilities were decommissioned, and the new centre brought on line.
The new Traffic Management System
In April 2017, we were awarded the contract to develop, supply and install the new traffic management system. Initially programmed for nine months, this work took just six weeks to deliver - the need to vacate the old building arising sooner than expected!
The transition was seamless, delivering the latest evolution of Stratos, our proven integrated highways management system, and with the move from the old system to the new taking place with no loss of service. Although there wasn’t sufficient time to roll over everything (peripheral functions were not delivered immediately) the core functions were retained and there was no unplanned system down time.
The new traffic management system is cloud-hosted, ensuring it is not only robust, secure and resilient, but also routinely backed up and future-proof. In the event of a fire destroying the systems, it can be fully operational again in 48 hours.
At its heart is an urban traffic control (UTC) system running SCOOT (Split, Cycle, Offset Optimisation Technique), a real-time traffic control and monitoring solution. This adaptive system is connected to the network's traffic signals at junctions and crossings and collects data from on-street detectors to optimise the flow of traffic at controlled junctions and so reduce the overall delay to drivers. Effectively SCOOT maximises the available network capacity across the city network.
In addition to the core UTC system, BCC incorporated a number of Yunex Traffic Stratos modules to help better manage the road network, delivering significant benefits to road users, businesses and residents, including:
- Intuitive Strategy Manager
- Journey Time Manager Module
- Car Park Module
- Variable Message Sign (VMS) Module
- Disruptions Module
Intuitive Strategy Manager
Sitting at the heart of the system, and the most vital part of its intelligence, this allows the control centre team to use any input to drive any output. This enables real time data to effect real time changes in the network. Automated strategies monitor the network, focusing on key junctions and hot spots, using data such as traffic flow to improve the way junctions are managed.
Journey Time Manager Module
Linked to 36 automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) camera sites across the city, this tool provides engineers with real time visualisation, monitoring, profiling and alerts, with data including average vehicle speed and journey time – helping inform automated incident detection, data analysis and transport modelling.
Car Park Module
Managing the city's 16 car parks, 16 guidance signs and one Park & Ride facility, this fully-integrated module keeps the city moving. It provides real time advice to drivers, monitoring occupancy of car parks and guiding motorists to spaces minimising delays caused by circulating traffic looking for car parking.
Variable Message Sign (VMS) Module
When an unplanned disruption occurs, the network of 21 Variable Message Signs kick in. The system provides real time traffic information to drivers at the roadside, enabling them to make better-informed travel decisions, thereby reducing queues and helping keep the city moving. VMS also gives drivers advanced warning of planned disruption, such as roadworks and events.
With 400,000 sets of road works every year in Bristol, this system helps engineers focus on the critical ones.
Since its launch, the Centre has been a huge success, delivering real operational efficiencies which in turn have benefitted the travelling public. The Centre includes the provision of three decision control rooms (intelligence; Incident Response and Emergency) which help inform how best to manage the city in the event of different scenarios arising. So, when an emergency call is now received, the relevant teams are all co-located, enabling fast, efficient and effective response.
As the highways network around the city evolves further, so too will Stratos using new and innovative ideas to manage it. With the core system established, it offers flexibility for expansion to a 'next generation' system, with a number of developments already under consideration - for example, opportunities for connected vehicles to use 'virtual VMS' is a clear goal given the new technology is far more cost effective than traditional infrastructure.
The Bristol Operations Centre has grown from strength to strength over the past year, providing an essential service in an innovative space. By using Yunex Traffic technology, the council’s traffic management team can act in a more efficient and coordinated way which has had a hugely positive impact on the people who live here.