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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

England's National Traffic Information Service

The National Traffic Information Service (NTIS) provides up to the minute traffic information for people using motorways and major A roads in England.

The role of the National Traffic Information Service

The National Traffic Information Service (NTIS) helps the Highways Agency to operate the strategic road network effectively. It does this by quickly gathering information about what traffic is on the network and turning it into useful information. 

The Highways Agency staff at the National Traffic Operations Centre (NTOC) can use this information to respond to events, accidents and traffic flows. For example by signing traffic diversions. They can also pass on real-time traffic information to the travel news media, organisations and road users via:

  • roadside electronic message signs 
  • Traffic England and Directgov websites 
  • mobile devices  
  • data feeds that can be easily re-used, like traffic information on Google maps

The NTOC and regional control centres (RCCs)

The NTOC receives information from the seven regional control centres (RCCs) in England. RCCs' tasks include:

  • taking calls from roadside emergency phones
  •  sending Highways Agency Traffic Officers to incidents
  • deciding on alternative routes
  •  setting electronic road signs for their region

Police officers and staff from the Highways Agency's maintenance contractors are also based at some RCCs.

How traffic data is collected

As well as using information from RCCs and on-road Traffic Officers, the NTOC gathers data from:

  • traffic flow monitoring equipment  
  • automatic number plate recognition cameras
  •  the police, local authorities and other organisations

Traffic flow monitoring equipment

Traffic flow monitoring equipment includes:

  •  solar-powered traffic monitoring stations
  •  Motorway Incident Detection Automatic Signalling system (MIDAS)

There are 1,500 solar-powered traffic monitoring stations across England. They measure the average speed and flow of the traffic and send this data back to the NTOC at five-minute intervals.

MIDAS is used to detect queues on the most heavily used sections of motorway. When it detects a queue, it also sends out a warning to drivers on local overhead electronic message signs.

Automatic number plate recognition cameras

There are around 1,100 automatic number plate recognition cameras at approximately 500 locations in England. They are used to monitor average speed, which helps the NTOC to identify congestion quickly.

For more information on the types of cameras installed on main roads and how the data is used, see 'Cameras on motorways and trunk roads'.

The police and local authorities

The NTOC keeps in close contact with police across the network and also with 116 local authorities. This ensures the Highways Agency is aware of incidents and roadworks that could affect journey times.

Other organisations that contribute to NTOC data

The NTOC liaises with a range of other organisations that generate traffic flow. This helps the Highways Agency to plan for major events that may cause congestion. The organisations include ports, airports, entertainment venues, football clubs and shopping centres.

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