Visits to council websites about highways represent around 2-3% of all visits, and are part of the wider ‘mobility’ category (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.
The last time we conducted this test was in 2014, when only 48% of county councils achieved the Better Connected standard – the equivalent of three or four stars under our current scoring arrangements. A key factor then was overreliance on not very usable map-based information, and a lack of browseable lists, which can be a quick and useful alternative when using a mobile device in a poor signal area. This time we have 85% getting 3 and 4 stars, 55% achieving the top mark. The difference is that most sites now embed the roadworks.org map and facilities into their websites to provide the information covered by this test, and individual and overall results are greatly influenced by how well this service has been integrated into the website. Only one site proved to be not purposed for mobile devices, and following Better Connected practice, missed out on a full survey.
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 2016-17 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 ‘ Council roadworks’, 100% of our Google searches landed on a relevant page.
In almost all cases it was also very easy to find roadworks from the home page and landing pages and using the internal search facility. Travel, roads and transport were labels used to signpost a section that included roadworks and sometimes ‘roadworks’ was a visible sub-topic on the home page.
Almost all of the councils surveyed use the roadworks.org mapping system as the primary or only route to access details of planned roadworks in the area. Some of these also displayed live traffic incidents, but it wasn’t always clear when this was the case prior to entering the map. Dorset helpfully provided links to two different maps, one covering live incidents and the other, planned roadworks.
Mapping is never particularly easy to use on a mobile device but roadworks.org is relatively straightforward and user-friendly. It is more difficult to use on a smartphone when the map is embedded in a council site web page instead of launching into a new window. Only one council with an embedded map also provided a clear link to a full screen version. Those that did not were marked down on the question ‘Is the map easy to use on a smart phone?’ where only 56% of all sites tested scored a ‘Yes’ answer.
Most sites provided a link to a version of roadworks.org that was centred on the local area, but the roadwork markers weren’t always immediately visible until the user zoomed into a more detailed part of the map. One council explained this in advance which could be useful as it would be easy for an inexperienced user to presume there were no roadworks.
All roadworks presented via roadworks.org had start and finish dates and stated who was responsible for them. This was very helpful but it was a shame that the link provided to either the utility company or the highways authority almost always led to a home page. It would have been so much more helpful to give a telephone number - ideally a direct telephone number of a person knowledgeable about the works. Finding the right number and getting through to someone to speak to from the site home page of a utility company is likely to be next to impossible (confirmed by a quick search of the BT website) and possibly deliberately so. But it is within the control of highways department to provide their own number and they should do so.
Councils varied in the quality of the rest of the information they provided via roadworks.org. Occasionally information looked rather technical and sometimes was even directly addressed to contractors working at the site. The information about the likely disruption level was usually very helpful – ranging from slight delays to road closures and diversions. Diversion routes were sometimes but not always displayed on the map.
The roadworks.org facility provides for users to sign up for email alerts for upcoming roadworks in an area the user can define. This is a useful feature but it is very easy to miss in the map interface as it is simply a small envelope icon in the menu. It’s not clear without clicking on it what this is – it could easily be assumed to be an email address for roadworks.org or the council highways department.
This explains the low score (30% Yes) for the question ‘Can I sign up for email alerts about upcoming roadworks?’ Councils only scored ‘Yes’ where they described this facility in the introduction to the map or provided an easy to access link to ‘help with the map’ which then covered the email alerts facility. A few did this very well but most failed to mention anything about email alerts.
Overall the roadworks.org map is a useful tool and is enhanced by the fact that it covers much of the UK and thus crosses local authority boundaries. It is however a shame that it no longer publishes the roadworks register in a list format, and most councils now appear to have dropped the lists. For someone wishing to look up details of roadworks they are aware of this would still be the fastest route. The best sites offered both the list format and the map route.
Coverage by councils of major planned works was much better, with a wealth of information and photographs provided for some schemes. Use of Twitter was widespread with dedicated accounts for transport giving updates on current roadworks and live incidents.
I was impressed that Devon had made the effort to put detailed information up on its site about major planned roadworks, in web pages not a PDF download. The information provided was detailed and answered questions such as 'Why can't we do the work at night? and 'What will happen to the public and school bus service?'. Really helpful all round.
Excellent signposting and more information on the council site than I usually see provided, especially accessible from the roadworks page. I could view major works, but also a list of road closures, which linked through in places to a lot more detail and photographs (where it was a major scheme) and also a map where current work was taking place. This site provides well thought out content with good customer focus.
Clearly signposted with a good introduction to the map, including mentioning email alerts, and a few frequently asked questions. The site has a list of emergency road and bridge closures as well as the planned roadworks map. Very useful in the event of severe weather.
Good signposting, and a very good introduction to the roadworks.org site. It explains that you need to zoom in to view any roadworks and that the map shows roadworks in other counties too and it also links to the user guide and a raft of other information on projects and work programmes.