NSG Exemplar Award: Highly Commended – ‘Best Business Integration’ 2007: Somerset Highways.
Somerset Highways is a partnership between Somerset County Council and its Highways Service Provider, Atkins.
When Somerset County Council decided to produce its LSG, it fully recognised the opportunities that it offered and was only ever interested in producing a version to level 3, complete with the full street geometry. Somerset was not starting from scratch, as they were able to extract detailed information from the road centre line network they were developing from various sources, including a large number of paper maps. The resulting USRNs were circulated to street naming and numbering officers in the District Councils in order to validate and produce a first cut of the gazetteer, which included 6600km of road. Adding to the detail of the gazetteer was considered an opportunity, not an administrative overhead and a rich vein of Associated Street Data was added. This included essential highway information relating to bridges, retaining walls, ancient monuments, traffic sensitive streets, cellars, and level crossings.
This exercise triggered another – a comprehensive search for road schemes, planned and unplanned, and road scheme requests that lay locked away in a myriad of drawers within the highways department. Details of more than 2000 schemes were put into a spreadsheet for future reference. In 2001 the coincidence of a large number of schemes from both utilities and the County Council’s own planned street activities in Yeovil led to a one off mapping exercise of all the schemes in the town in order to coordinate the work more effectively. What was needed now was an effective solution to enable Somerset to plan and co-ordinate all schemes and street works right the way across the county. With a top class street gazetteer, an up to date archive of road schemes and the necessary mapping skills, Somerset had the wherewithal to do just that.
Somerset Highways came up with a simple tool to bring about this coordination. The tool is known as the Highway Scheme Proposal Register (HSPR), it includes all significant highway proposals and makes them available as a dataset viewable across the highways department via the council’s intranet and a desktop mapping application.
Using the new system every piece of work undertaken within Somerset has to have a unique reference number. Any planned works by the statutory undertakers or the council itself, such as re-surfacing, kerbing, drainage etc., must first be submitted to the highways department. The department gives it a unique number, provides the shape and extent of the works for mapping and logs the contact details, dates and current status. These are joined together and published for access by the desktop mapping system.
The HSPR has been extended to include environmental aspects to enable the highways department to comply with its Biodiversity Action Plan. A wide range of mapping datasets derived from the development of the LSG and the HSPR are now available to users across the county. These include traffic sensitive streets, streets affected by engineering difficulty, reinstatement categories and streets affected by road closures and associated diversionary routes.
Together the LSG and the HSPR have enabled Somerset to plan and coordinate its highway work more efficiently, to deliver cost savings from cooperative scheme working, whilst reducing road closures and traffic disruption.
The quality of the LSG allied with the HSPR offers all sorts of opportunities for the future. Linking past, present and future scheme work with levels of public satisfaction in the highway network, is presently being explored whilst GIS scheme data also offers the ability for more accurate and accessible works records which are important, for example, under health and safety legislation.
- The quality of the LSG has enabled its shape and referencing information to be used to map and publish street work activity such as road closure plans and diversionary routes to all affected parishes and councillors.
- The HSPR includes all proposals likely to affect the highway, including special events such as festivals and traffic diversions initiated by the police.
- The value of map-based representation of scheme proposals and the availability of an increasing wealth of other information has been met with real enthusiasm by users and helped deliver real understanding and better working practices.