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With winter setting in across the UK, Transport Scotland, the Scottish national transportation authority, has enlisted Esri UK to supply geographic information systems (GIS) technology to make the work of its trunk road gritters more transparent to the general public.
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The authority is tracking its gritters as they move along major roads in Scotland and feeding their location information into a new Gritter Tracker app, which it has just made available to download. The live app monitors the country’s trunk road network to provide the public with information on where the vehicles have been active, and when, via a so-called “snail trail”, as close to real time as possible.
Transport Scotland said the app would give drivers confidence that the roads were safe in adverse weather conditions, and helped the organisation to fulfil its obligation to deliver a safe, efficient, cost-effective and sustainable transport system.
“In Scotland, gritting is essential during cold weather to keep traffic flowing and reduce the safety risks to the public,” said Martin Thomson, network impacts manager at Transport Scotland.
“Historically, we have published static maps showing the public treatment and patrol routes, as well as the planned number of gritters being deployed, but in the age of smartphones and real-time information, we needed to go much further in providing details of our gritter treatment activities through digital means.
“This self-service approach to getting information allows the public to be more involved in deciding, for example, when, where and how to travel, or even whether they want to travel at all.”
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The app uses mobile GPS trackers that many roads authorities have already fitted to the vehicles used by gritter contractors. The location data is fed through Esri UK’s cloud-based ArcGIS Online service – an online, collaborative platform that lets organisations use, create and share maps using relevant data – to provide the app’s underpinnings.
“Winter treatment costs a lot of money,” said Esri UK head of government, Paul Clarke. “Transport Scotland’s winter service costs between £12m and £13m a year. The additional insight provided by ArcGIS into the timing and routes used in real life by the gritters leads to optimisation for Transport Scotland that saves money and improves safety.”