As part of my efforts to highlight wastes of public money I sent in a complaint to the Government watchdogs that cover England, Wales and Scotland querying the duplication of transport and traffic website, and the idiotic separatist nature of the Welsh, Scottish and English traffic sites.
I received a constructive and thought out reply from the Director, Transport, of the National Audit Office. That highlighted the NAO's work on reducing duplication of Government websites which I was not familiar with. www.nao.org.uk/digital-britain-2011
The Ministry of Justice has reduced many separate websites for public bodies since the Coalition came to power and that has not necessarily made it easier to find information. However it must help save money. The reply from Geraldine Barker also pointed out that the transport information is provided by the public organisations for other outlets, which is a good public service. I hope that the transport bodies themselves in England and Wales and Scotland are themselves receptive to considering ideas to avoid duplication and save taxpayers' money, regardless of administrative boundaries.
My letter is below, 15 January 2012. The reply (15 February) can be found under the documents (articles and downloads section) of the website.
Money wasted on separate national traffic websites.
Dear Auditor General, Auditor General for Wales and Auditor General for Scotland,
I am writing to complain about the waste of public money of having separate Traffic England, Traffic Wales and Traffic Scotland websites.
More than that, there appears to be no need to have any of these websites at all as traveller focused websites as the BBC travel news pages and Transport Direct between them appear to entirely do the jobs that travellers (consumers) might look at any of these websites for. I appreciate that they may provide detailed information about the reasons for maintenance or engineering works for example. There may also be a need to have websites because they tell people about the work that the three different bodies do.
It appears to me to be a waste of the money of tax payers throughout England and Wales and Scotland to have three different bodies at all. This complaint is though specifically about the websites.
The websites I refer to are:
For background detail I made the points at the end in a submission to the Coalition Government's consultation on ideas to save public money in August 2010.
Two issues that I point out below appear to have been solved since then. Firstly there no longer appears to be a journey planner on the Traffic Wales website so there is no longer that duplication (albeit that is a useful facility you would expect to find on a travel site). Secondly when looking at the map on the Traffic Wales site it does now appear to let you look at incidents near the border at least allowing some logical continuity. This commonsense on the Traffig Cymru site does not appear to apply to the agencies in England or Scotland. Wales and Scotland are not covered on the England site (they are greyed out) and if you click on Wales or Scotland in the England site map you get the new webpage of the respective organisation. Why not just have the information all on one map. For Scotland the Scottish map only covers Scotland and the border as far south as Carlisle and Newcastle. That again does allow some continuity but it seems ridiculous that the people providing travel map information in Scotland appear to think that drivers will not want to know what is happening if their journey takes them from Scotland further south into England, or indeed may want to see the whole of a journey that starts in England or Wales and finishes in Scotland.
I believe that each of your organisations shares responsibility for stopping this waste of public money.
Suggestion (2 August 2010):
Merge the traffic conditions web pages and databases for the Highways Agency and Traffic Wales.
I regularly travel between Cardiff and Liverpool. Sometimes by train, sometimes by car on the motorways and frequently on the A-roads along the Welsh border via Hereford, Shrewsbury and Wrexham.
The borders route – along major national A-roads and between major towns – crosses the English / Welsh border several times. It is impossible to use a journey planner on traffic-wales.com or on the Highways Agency 'Traffic England' traffic map (http://www.trafficengland.com/trafficalerts.aspx) because they both cover only their own area of responsibility. Wales is blanked out on the Traffic England map and the information on roads stops once in England on the Traffic Wales traffic information map (http://www.traffic-wales.com/traffic). The roads on the latter let you see as far as Hereford or Chester but basically stop after that! I appreciate that Traffig Cymru is funded by the Welsh Assembly Government but it is all UK citizen's public money being spent and presumably people living and / or working in and from England and Wales would like to be able to plan journeys seamlessly without nationalist boundaries on road information.
The same arguments obviously apply to Scotland though I am not aware of a similar cross border route that would cause such problems.
Alternatively the public services above could all be managed by a private or not for profit provider instead like the BBC Travel News (who have a national traffic map: GB National Roads http://www.bbc.co.uk/travelnews/local/national-map.shtml) or Transport Direct. Presumably both these sites compile their information from the public bodies above. So in fact they could all use the same traffic map – then they don't need the maintenance cost for the four or five different ones. In fact the faqs on Transport Direct make clear that it is a 'not for profit' service by a private company Atos Origin funded by the UK Department for Transport, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Scottish Government using information from the Highways Agency, Traffic Wales and Transport Scotland so why all the duplication.
Each have provided technically advanced useful welcome services – time to merge some of them and save money.
Kiron Reid 48 L15 8HB