Highways Agency
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Web improvements to ease holiday traffic

Web improvements to ease holiday traffic

HIGHWAYS AGENCY News Release (HA MB08-09) issued by COI News Distribution Service on 8 April 2009

Families heading off for an Easter break will find it even easier to plan their journey with improvements to the Highways Agency website just in time for the holiday getaway. A new service has been launched that allows live traffic information to be accessed via a mobile phone and other portable devices, as well as from the standard website.

The website, which provides constant live updates from the Agency's National Traffic Control Centre, proved a real hit with road-users during February's period of severe weather. More than a million visitors were able to check the state of the roads and plan their journey accordingly.

Historic data collected by the Agency over the past five years shows the Easter getaway is expected to be well underway by lunchtime on Maundy Thursday. By 2pm England's motorways and major trunk roads are 45 percent busier than a typical Thursday. By 10pm there could be as many as 70,000 extra vehicles on the road, an increase of more than 80 percent.

The Highways Agency has now upgraded its website in time for Easter to provide for increased demand on its services at peak holiday times.

Denise Plumpton, Highways Agency director of information says:

"Planning your journey to avoid any congestion hotspots can take the stress out of the first day of the holiday so that everyone arrives at their destination happy and ready to enjoy themselves. Thousands of people already take advantage of our website to check the latest traffic information before they leave; now we are making that same information much easier to access when people are away from their PC too."

When drivers stop for a break as they head for their holiday destination keying http://www.highways.gov.uk/mobile on their mobile will allow them to check that the road is clear ahead. For those without a laptop or PC at the hotel, cottage, tent or caravan, they can now check for updates before heading for home too.

The Highways Agency main website provides live updates at http://www.highways.gov.uk/trafficinfo. It gives details of any unplanned incidents and shows where the motorways and major trunk roads are flowing freely.

The mobile version of the Highways Agency website provides easy access to live traffic information that is presented in a simple text based format specially designed for smaller screens that will deliver faster download speeds. It includes latest incident reports searchable by region and motorway.

Denise Plumpton adds:

"Our publicity and frequent messages on the site itself make it absolutely clear you should never use a mobile phone while driving, but we also encourage drivers to take frequent breaks and that is an ideal time to check the road ahead.

"This is the latest addition to a suite of service to provide road users with the information they need to make informed choices about their journey - they include variable message signs set by our operators, Traffic Radio which broadcasts live from our National Traffic Control Centre on DAB digital radio, the data we pass on to other broadcasters and media organisations and our very popular website."

Notes to Editors
1. The Highways Agency is an executive agency of the Department for Transport. We manage, maintain and improve England's motorways and major A roads on behalf of the Secretary of State.

2. Real-time traffic information for England's motorways and major A roads is now available:

* From our new Traffic Radio service, available on DAB digital radio and the internet at http://www.trafficradio.org.uk To tune into the DAB service, simply press the "scan" button on your radio. The radio will tune into all available channels and you can select the new service by scrolling through the channels until you reach "Traffic Radio".

* On the internet at http://www.highways.gov.uk/trafficinfo or http://www.highways.gov.uk/mobile from a mobile device

* By phone from the Highways Agency 24-hour voice activated phone service on 08700 660 115. (Calls from BT landlines to 0870 numbers will cost no more than 8p per minute; mobile calls usually cost more).

3. Before using a mobile, find a safe place to park. Never stop on the hard shoulder of a motorway except in an emergency. Make sure it's safe and legal before you call.

4. Traffic flow data collected by the Highways Agency's National Traffic Control Centre shows the Easter getaway is expected to be well underway by lunchtime on Maundy Thursday. By 2pm England's motorways and major trunk roads are 45 percent busier than a typical Thursday. By 10pm there could be as many as 70,000 extra vehicles on the road, an increase of more than 80 percent.

Good Friday is actually quieter than most people expect. Traffic is expected to peak at normal rush hour levels, although the busiest period for Bank Holiday traffic is at midday instead of 9am as it would be on a normal Friday. Highways Agency data for the past five years shows traffic levels expected to fall steadily from lunchtime - by 6.30pm there are predicted to be around 40 percent fewer vehicles on the motorways and strategic road network.

5. For more general information about the Highways Agency and its work, visit the Highways Agency website http://www.highways.gov.uk, or telephone the Highways Agency Information Line on 08457 50 40 30 at any time. (Calls to 0845 numbers cost no more than 3p/min from BT residential landlines. Call charges from other landlines and mobile networks may vary)

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