Traffic England is a free website provided by the Highways Agency through the National Traffic Control Centre, providing live traffic information about the motorways and A-Roads in England (gathered for their operations centre via various road sensors and cameras). Serco have a long term contract to operate the National Traffic Control Centre, including the website, and chose Appius from a set of tendering companies as the best provider for the redesign and re-build of the website. Just to be selected for this project Appius needed to demonstrate extensive skills and track record in the areas of project management methodology, user centred design, technical architecture, bespoke development and integration, application design, overlap with 3rd party software provider (for mapping) – all combined with a team highly experienced in designing great transport service websites.
Our User Experience team took the client and the project through our full User Centred Design process starting with ideas from a full Competitor Review and the creation of User Profiles to ensure the needs of each type of user were taken into account. A set of Usability Testing sessions were conducted to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the current website. The intended user experience was ‘wireframed’, designed in line with Highways Agency guidelines and finally prototyped for a second round of Usability Testing to test various innovative ideas and generate a set of changes informed by testing from the end audience groups. The final version of the website was also validated and iterated through end user sessions. This step ensured that we and our client could be completely comfortable that the launch version would be as usable and intuitive as possible.
In parallel our Technology Team defined the Conceptual Architecture for the solution and specified key interfaces with the National Traffic Control Centre data feed and various other Highways Agency information feeds. The solution has four key components, a Traffic Map, a Motorway Traffic Flow, a Disruptions Search and most importantly the CORBA systems integration. The data travels from the operation centre CORBA feed and is converted by a Java CORBA ORB to provide event data for the Java map and SQL database. This event data is then overlaid on the HA road network which has been drawn on the map using shape files provided by the NTCC and also in the Motorway Traffic Flow which is a linear representation of the motorways.
This linear representation of the road network has been created through a complex set of stored procedures, that “walk” the Project Network Model (a text file of all the road links the HA manage) and by identifying different junction conditions is able to convert this data into SQL tables for use in the website and particularly the Motorway Traffic Flow and Disruption Search. This process ensured optimum distribution of work packages to reduce risk and maximise performance of the new .NET website application. Physical architecture, server sizing and hardware requirements were also provided by our team.
Throughout the project Appius took contractual and project management responsibility for the provision of the mapping software solution by Navteq Maps, allowing the client to work with a single point of contact and provider throughout rather than having to manage multiple vendors. The website build and launch process involved extensive Testing and Release Management to ensure a robust solution with accurate road network information and excellent performance under intensive load. Appius co-ordinated the testing prior to release to client and also Customer Acceptance Testing by Serco.
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