National Highways moves closer to digital twin

Image: 193901584 © Jonathan Mitchell |

National Highways is moving closer to a digital twin of the national road network with the appointment of Sopra Steria to implement a cloud-based National Traffic Information Service (NTIS).

The service provides information that is vital to help both National Highways’ operations teams and the emergency services respond to incidents as efficiently as possible and to keep traffic moving.

It also helps road users plan their journeys, avoid delays and stay safe by supplying the latest information to electronic message signs on the network and journey planning digital platforms.

Over the next five years, digital transformation specialist Sopra Steria will introduce the new NTIS, switching data from a legacy to cloud infrastructure. National Highways said the move to the cloud will enable it to “better collect the data needed to transform how the network is operated” and offer better real-time route planning.

National Highways customer service director Melanie Clarke said: “This digital transformation will allow us to make positive changes to the way our roads are run and to vastly improve the journeys of road users both today and on the roads of the future.

“This is a small part of our Digital Roads strategy, which is reverberating across National Highways, fundamentally changing how our roads are designed, built, operated and used.”

As part of its contract, Sopra Steria will support the creation of a digital twin of the strategic road network. This will be used to map out motorways and major A roads in England digitally and will use machine learning and AI to accurately predict the conditions of the roads up to 24 hours in advance.

“This digital transformation will allow us to make positive changes to the way our roads are run and to vastly improve the journeys of road users both today and on the roads of the future.”

Melanie Clarke, National Highways

Adrian Fieldhouse, MD (Government) at Sopra Steria, said: “Sopra Steria’s experience in road traffic management and digital transformation, as well as agile methodology, will help National Highways in this significant evolutionary leap to ensure the continued efficiency and safety of our road network both now and long into the future.”

Meanwhile, TRL – the UK-based global centre for innovation in transport and mobility – has secured the contract to migrate National Highways’ Smart Motorway Calibration and Optimisation (SMCALO) software and services toolkit to the cloud.

SMCALO is a web-based service that enables National Highways to visualise traffic and signal data and monitor parameters such as traffic speeds and flow. It also helps calculate the thresholds for automatic signals to ensure variable speed limits are only on when needed. SMCALO also identifies performance issues with detectors and records when signals are showing.

The new cloud-based solution will enable new data sources to be incorporated and offer easy access to SMCALO data for all stakeholders.

Commenting on the two contracts, National Highways chief data officer Davin Crowley-Sweet added: “We are ensuring people using our roads are better informed and have trust in the journey information they access from us, so that they feel safe and in control of their journeys.

“While today most of our customers are humans informed by data and technology, the increasing amount of connected and autonomous vehicle technology used in private and commercial vehicles could mean a future of providing data to self-driving systems. We must understand this direction and be prepared.”

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