Stories of our impact

Hit the road, Jack

Whether it’s commuters driving to the office or visitors on their way to tourist attractions, millions of journeys take place in London every day. As our capital city grows and attracts more people for both work and play, its roads are set to face unprecedented challenges.

Against the backdrop of a growing population, rising traffic volumes and limited options for increasing road capacity, the need to manage rising congestion is pressing. Here’s how we helped Transport for London (TfL) better understand the changes in road traffic flows.

The power of real-time data

A TfL Surface Transport team uses data from a large number of on-street sensors that are placed across London’s 27 major road corridors, collating millions of vehicle records per day. But analysing this huge volume of data to actively manage traffic proved to be a big challenge.

So we designed and built a solution that allows TfL to combine this data in real time to get a full picture of traffic flows across the city and alleviate congestion. The Real-Time Origin Destination Analysis Tool (RODAT) combines and analyses information from thousands of roadside sensors with other sources of big data to support TfL’s traffic managers.

Two innovations helped us achieve these key insights:

  1. A real-time algorithm, which matches number plate data, cross-references other data sources and calculates actual journey times and traffic flows. The real-time processing continually ingests data, applies the algorithm and aggregates the results every 15 minutes
  2. A data dashboard, which alerts traffic analysts to unusual road conditions with a classification of the types of vehicle involved. Visualising the traffic data against the standard expected road conditions helps the anlaysts to make informed decisions

Measuring eight million journeys

Since the solution went live in 2016, it has captured eight million journeys on London’s roads every single day. TfL is now able to understand traffic flows and journey times in real time, and can make interventions to manage the traffic. The solution is also allowing TfL to mitigate the future effects of road infrastructure projects, all helping deliver on its objective of ‘keeping London moving’. The project was highly commended in the innovation category of the 2017 Management Consultancies Association’s Awards.

Andy Emmonds, Chief Traffic Analyst, TfL Surface Transport, said: “The RODAT solution allows us to do something we never could before – combining and analysing our data in real time across several systems. In addition to the measurable benefits in congestion management, the ways of working and lessons from this project will be essential as we invest more in technology to keep London moving.”