Copper Junior Account Executive, Charlotte Minett, explores the results of Transport Focus’ Strategic Roads User Survey and looks into communication challenges in the infrastructure sector.  

This year’s Strategic Roads User Survey, carried out by Transport Focus, reveals 82% satisfaction with the Strategic Road Network overall. It was also shown that 93% feel safe on the network – a huge feat for Highways England, which considers safety a principle, not just a priority.

Two sections that fall slightly behind the others in terms of customer satisfaction are the management of roadworks and the provision of information via electronic signs. These two factors are tied together with a single string: communication.

One of the most ambitious UK road improvement programmes, the Government’s first road investment strategy (RIS 1) is well underway and has a goal of improving multiple strategic roads.

The strategy is evolving quickly, and to keep up with customer service during these fast-paced developments, Highways England has developed the Customer Service Strategy. It aims to communicate and engage with customers, making them aware that improvements are happening for them and not to them.

The majority of the strategic road improvements being carried out are nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs), which require Highways England to work within the Planning Act 2008 – in the last ten years this means promoters of major projects have needed to front-load and significantly widen their public engagement. It has also contributed to the idea of ‘the customer’ in infrastructure in a way that, historically, has not been previously considered.

Identifying the customer is a complex matter for the infrastructure sector; but this makes it no less crucial to ensure that their needs are met.

As the concept of a ‘customer’ is relatively new to infrastructure projects, it is hardly surprising that the communication aspect is bringing customer satisfaction down slightly. However, with new high-profile projects and strategies, the idea of providing customer service in infrastructure is becoming more mainstream. It will be interesting to see if the customer satisfaction results rise for next year’s survey.