Frequently Asked Questions
What is Traffic Radio?
Traffic Radio is a regionalised traffic information service, offering news about traffic conditions on England’s motorways, trunk road network and London’s main road network, 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Broadcasting from the control room of the National Traffic Control Centre near Birmingham, and with information direct from there and the control room at Transport for London, Traffic Radio is updated every 10 minutes at busy times and every 20 minutes during off-peak periods.
Traffic Radio provides:
* National traffic headlines.
* Regional traffic information throughout the day, depending on where you are in the country.
* Roadworks information.
* Infomercials (for example explaining the Highways Agency Traffic Officer service, safety advice and tips about planning your journey).
The service is broadcasting on six regional streams – North West, North East (including Yorkshire), Midlands, South West, South East (including East Anglia) and London.
Who is responsible for Traffic Radio?
The service has been developed by the Highways Agency which is an executive agency of the Department for Transport that manages motorways and trunk roads in England. However, the Agency is working in partnership with Transport for London to make information available through the service about traffic conditions in London. The Agency is also speaking to partners at Traffic Scotland, Traffic Wales and DRDNI (Northern Ireland) about joining the service. The aim is to provide a joined-up service across the country.
How can I listen to Traffic Radio?
Traffic Radio is being broadcast on local DAB Digital Radio (Digital Audio Broadcasting). You can also listen via the website at www.trafficradio.org.uk and via short-term (28-day) localised FM and AM transmission during some major roadworks and special events. You can now hear Traffic Radio’s Midlands service at The NEC on 1386AM.
Who is the service aimed at?
The service is aimed at anyone planning a journey on motorways or trunk roads in England. Currently it’s available to people with DAB radios, and most people with access to the internet are also able to receive it through this website. It’s all part of the Highways Agency’s aim to provide people with traffic information where and when they need it.
How can it help me?
You can find out before you travel if there are any delays to your route as well as details of the latest roadworks. This information will help you make an informed decision about which route to take, what time to set off, whether to take the train or bus instead or whether to cancel your trip.
Why can’t the service be delivered on FM or AM?
Ofcom is not currently offering any appropriate new analogue licences. They cannot just gift a licence to the HA without a change in legislation and the spectrum is almost full. If an existing station were to switch off they may be looking to sell their frequencies but this would come at a high cost.
How many people currently own a DAB set?
Approximately 35.3% of adults claim to live in a household with a DAB radio. This number continues to grow rapidly, with many retailers choosing to discontinue selling FM only radios.
How many vehicles currently have a DAB receiver?
According to Ofcom, fewer than 500,000 motor vehicles are fitted with digital radio, but as part of the Government-Industry Digital Radio Action Plan, car manufacturers have committed to fit DAB as standard in all new cars by 2013. In addition, there are already devices on the market which can convert a car radio to digital. This is an area where the market is expected to grow considerably, and prices to fall.
What is the point in a Traffic Radio service that can’t be received by the majority of vehicles?
You can benefit greatly from planning your journey before you set off. Knowing the condition of the traffic before you leave can present you with more options for your journey. For example, you may think about taking a different route, taking the train or bus or delaying your journey. These benefits often outweigh those you can achieve by finding out about heavy traffic or an incident once you are already in your car, or just as you join the back of the queue.
Where does the information come from?
The service is produced on behalf of the Highways Agency and Transport for London by Global Traffic Network compiling information from a wide range of sources, including the Agency’s National Traffic Control Centre and TfL’s London Traffic Control Centre. The service is broadcast 24 hours a day directly from the National Traffic Control Centre in Birmingham.
Is the information reliable and accurate?
Yes, the Highways Agency’s National Traffic Control Centre operates 24 hours every day of the year, collecting information on road and traffic conditions across 4,500 miles (7,300 km) of England’s motorways and trunk roads.
The centre continuously collects real-time information from 3,750 road sensors and over 1,000 CCTV cameras as well as reports from the Highways Agency traffic officers, police forces, local highway authorities, contractors, leisure and entertainment venues and weather centres.
The London Traffic Control Centre (LTCC) monitors London’s main roads and junctions 24 hours a day. Traffic controllers use a network of CCTV cameras, intelligent traffic signals which measure traffic flows and information from London’s bus drivers to quickly identify traffic delays. The controllers are supported by the Metropolitan Police Area Traffic Control, which is directly linked to traffic and transport police resources on the streets. Close links with the London boroughs, utilities and event organisers mean that the LTCC receives advance warning of roadworks and public events that may disrupt traffic.
Why only roads with no focus on public transport?
Traffic Radio is intended to offer quick updates on the traffic conditions on motorways and trunk roads. Information about all forms of transport would lead to lengthy broadcasts and could make it less likely that people would tune in before they travelled. Traffic Radio will provide information about major disruption on public transport, such as tube line closures as these will have an impact on road traffic.
Is the whole of England covered by the DAB service?
Some areas do not receive the service because they are not within a licensed DAB area. The initial service covers approximately 80% of the population of England. With new DAB licences awarded by Ofcom, the service will become more widely available over the next two years.
How much does it all cost?
Traffic Radio costs approximately £2.8 million to run across England per year.
Doesn’t it compete with the BBC and commercial market?
Traffic Radio provides information not entertainment. It is only intended to be a dip-in dip-out service and should not distract listeners from their current choice of station long-term. Traffic Radio provides strategic information, so existing traffic information services, such as radio station traffic bulletins, continue to offer benefits to their listeners by providing localised information.
Traffic Radio offers more choice to listeners. As a service not widely available on analogue radio, Traffic Radio will potentially further increase the market share of DAB within the industry.
Why have the HA chosen six regional streams when they have seven Regional Control areas?
During the next few months, the Highways Agency plans to investigate the most appropriate number of streams for the service.