Transport Scotland carries out major post-COVID operational review

Transport Scotland’s Multi-Agency Response Team (MART) for planned and unplanned incidents on the trunk road network is undergoing a fundamental review ‘from start to finish’ for the first time in a decade.

The move will assess the major operational changes brought in over the COVID period.

Among the upcoming planned enhancements will be the refinement of its situational awareness and crisis management software, the introduction of What3Words, greater ingestion of real-time weather information, and the use of vehicle tracking and cloud-based software.

Douglas Cairns, Traffic Scotland operator manager for Transport Scotland told Cold Comfort Scotland delegates there had been ‘fundamental changes from pre-COVID in terms of how we operate the MART and we are going to rip that up and start again from start to finish’.

From the first warning signs even before the national lockdown MART has developed enormously as it adapted from an in-person team to remote working.

The unit was only allowed to introduce Microsoft Teams and office video calling in the autumn of 2020, meaning that in the first few months it struggled to engage its full range of partner agencies and organisations.

This period of rapid development culminated in the introduction of the TraveliQ tool in November 2020 and the April 2021 trial of incident management software F-24: CIM. These software tools provided situational awareness based on a mapping programme with various data layers that could be switched on and off such as congestion information and CCTV.

Mr Cairns said: ‘Because we were in a virtual environment we needed to look at how we manage the flow of information and how it was recorded. So we trialled almost a command and control functionality software to record in real-time all the actions and interactions and decision making.

‘We are coming to the end of the first phase of the trial and are looking at feedback for the next phase of how do we further develop and how we operate virtually going forward. The software situational awareness tool that we have developed is essentially a map of loads of different data layers that you can switch off and on but it is amazing how much of an impact it has had to enable us to deal with situations. All the information is in one place so it’s far simpler to operate and manage.’

Mr Cairns outlined the future plans:

Short-term 

  • introducing What3Words (W3W) to improve situational awareness.
  • review of current functionality /establish further software enhancements (such as vehicle tracking for winter fleet)
  • assess current reporting requirements

Medium-term within 12 months

  • trial of cloud-based software to manage mart and incidents
  • develop /adapt operational procedures following adjustment to control room and resource management.

Long-term year plan

  • undertake actions/outcomes from the LEAN review to develop Transport Scotland’s incident management and MART requirements.
  • reduce duplication of data input to improve resource efficiency
  • assessment of the cloud-based software trial to establish next steps and formalise approach of mart management

Mr Cairns told Highways: ‘The MART process has been in place since 2010 following an incident on the M8 which caused complete disruption. It has fundamentally not been reviewed since then in terms of in-depth analysis of how it is structured and how it operates. With COVID coming along the way it operates is different so it is an ideal opportunity to look with a fresh perspective at how we operate the MART function in general, take the lessons learned and the enhancements and innovations that have come through COVID and build that into our next concept of operations for the MART.’

COVID helped accelerate the development of the MART’s processes by several years, Mr Cairns said. The system is still some way behind National Highways’ Severe Weather Information System (SWIS), though the two organisations are in talks about mutual support.

For instance, Transport Scotland can currently only take a snapshot of CCTV information once a minute, which is not stored and so cannot be used for enforcement activities. National Highways' SWIS provides a much greater audit functionality allowing users to look back at information available at the time of a decision.

MART's situational awareness tools were developed strictly for the trunk road in Scotland and were not developed in partnership with local authorities.

Cold Comfort 2022 (introducing Climate UK), the 29th Annual Winter Service Conference and Exhibition, takes place at the Harrogate Convention Centre on 25 and 26 May 2022.

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