Accent MR Accent

Evaluating the Appeal of Different Road Surfaces on the M25

Background

Connect Plus (CP) and Connect Plus Services (CPS) are working with Highways England (HE) to create better journeys for road users on the M25, one of Europe’s busiest motorways. Concrete sections of the network had been identified as an issue by the consumer watchdog, Transport Focus.  Atkins and Accent were commissioned by CPS to undertake research into the impact of six different concrete surface treatments on the M25 and how these affect user experience.

Approach

We conducted a combination of qualitative and quantitative research, including capturing ‘in the moment’ data. All participants were required to undertake a minimum of four journeys through the designated trial area. The sample included different types of driver, vehicle categories and vehicle age.

A variety of mechanisms were used to capture data. Dash cams helped us to understand the context of the journey from a driver perspective along with providing visual confirmation of the precise location of the car on the network and any external factors such as other traffic. We used audio footage to analyse the changes in noise between the different road surfaces in the trial. Roughness of the road was monitored via a smartphone app and we used fitness tracker watches to track changes in the drivers’ heart rate. Location and speed were captured and cross-checked across the fitness trackers, dashcam meta data and app content. Finally, we conducted post-journey interviews to explore customers’ perceptions of the journey. The methodologies used allowed subtle changes to be picked up which would otherwise may have been missed through more traditional research methods.

Results

The work has been extremely well received by the client and key stakeholders, and recently received the Customer Service award from the Institute of Asset Management. This research was the first-of-its-kind focused on concrete surfaces, providing detailed insights on customer perception of the strategic road network in addition to previous surveys.  Footage from the monitored journeys was combined with audio from the footage, roughness and heart rate data to provide a powerful visual tool to support the research and analysis, and also helped in the dissemination of the work and findings to key stakeholders.