Blog by: Graham Cookson, Chief Economist, EMEA

Economics is the study of scarce resources, and what is more scarce than our roadways. For example, in England the Strategic Road Network represents just 2% of all roads but carries over a third of all traffic and two thirds of all freight.

Over the last fifty years the volume of traffic in the UK has risen dramatically – from 70 billion vehicle miles travelled per year in 1960-61 to 304 billion in 2011-12. However, the level of public investment in the road network has not kept pace with this trend, spending a third of what it did in the 1970s and 80s.

As a result, congestion has risen dramatically damaging the economy. Combined with sustained economic growth and increased efforts by cities on enabling multi-modal transport options, road traffic may continue to increase by up to 50%. In response, the UK has announced the largest road building programme since the 1970’s, trebling the annual investment in major road schemes by 2020-21. Plans include adding extra lanes to the busiest motorways, identifying solutions to tackle some of the most notorious and longstanding road hot spots in the country, upgrading the national non-motorway network managed by Highways England to dual-lane and £10 billion to repair the national and local road network.

The UK is not alone. By 2030, there will be 8.5 billion people in the world with over 60% living in urban areas; and all these areas are in turn, connected by strategic road networks. A number of other countries have been investing in road building over the past decade and are likely to continue to do so. For example, Russia has committed to spending almost $285 billion on road building up to 2020, and the EU alone has spent Euro 65 billion since 2000.

However, there is what economists call an opportunity cost involved. Every £1 invested in a specific transport project is £1 that isn’t spent improving transport elsewhere in the network, or even spent outside of transport in other priority areas such as health and education. It is therefore critical that we maximise the impact of our road infrastructure investments and ensure that we are targeting the worst affected areas. Furthermore, to aid accountability and to inform future decision making it’s critical that we evaluate the performance of these improvement programmes.

INRIX Roadway Analytics could assist here. It’s an exciting new on-demand service, which helps transport agencies and road directorates understand what is happening on their network, to benchmark and improve roadway performance, and to maximize the investment of public funds. It will be available initially in over 28 countries across Europe and the Middle East with other regions to follow.

The INRIX Roadway Analytics solution is made up of a unique set of on-demand tools for analytics and visualizations. It also allows users to perform analysis and create reports and communication materials to convey information and recommendations to agency and political decision makers, drivers, and the general public. Want to know where your traffic hotspots are? Want to quantify the benefit to be gained through new road investments? Or do you need to perform a before and after evaluation of a new road project? INRIX’s Roadway Analytics solution can help produce tailor-made insights.

I’ve been playing with the demo version here at INRIX and it is very powerful. For example, in the 2015 INRIX Traffic Scorecard, Munich’s Mittlerer Ring was Germany’s most congested road wasting as much as 4 days a year. In response, the Government of Upper Bavaria have committed Euro 400 million on a range of infrastructure projects to tackle this problem. A major part of this is the 1.5 km Luise-Kiesselbach-Platz tunnel that opened in July 2015 after 6 years of construction. Using INRIX Roadway Analytics we were able to look at the impact of the tunnel on the ring road traffic by comparing average traffic speeds before (October 2014) and after (October 2015) it opened to the public. As the graph below illustrates, there was an approximately 10 kph increase in both the AM and PM peak hour speeds.

Clearly the tunnel is working! This is just one of the many ways in which the INRIX Roadway Analytics solution can help to provide on-demand road performance analytics. It launches in Quarter 3 but you can find out more information here.