The future of Road Schemes

Published: 23 January 2018

Here is a question for regular visitors to CBRD. Would you miss Road Schemes if it disappeared?

Before you consider your answer, I'll explain why the question is being asked.

The "Road Schemes" section of CBRD was created in 2002 because there was nowhere on the internet that allowed you to track all current road construction and improvement schemes across all the many highway authorities in the UK. There's still nowhere else that does that, and it's now been a part of what we do for more than 15 years. So the suggestion that it gets taken offline is not made lightly.

There are three reasons why I'm not sure it ought to continue.

1. It's not very popular

About 1% of site traffic is to the Road Schemes pages - or, in other words, 99 in every 100 visitors don't seem to find it interesting or useful.

That has a knock-on effect: Road Schemes pages rely almost entirely on visitors to CBRD submitting progress updates and new information to keep the pages up to date. But because they have so few visitors, very little new information comes in and they quickly become stale. And of course because there are very few updates, they aren't as useful as they could be, so people don't visit.

To illustrate the point, there are 113 schemes currently listed on CBRD but only five of them have been updated in any way in the last month. It's not working the way it was supposed to.

2. It takes time to maintain

Quite a lot of time, actually - dealing with e-mails, approving progress updates, manually inserting changes to pages and so on. CBRD is something I do in my spare time and my spare time is a limited resource.

Adding a new scheme takes between 15 and 30 minutes of my time. That means that Road Schemes is holding back an awful lot of work on the rest of CBRD - research and writing for blog posts, new long-form articles and rewriting the Ringways pages. It also means that Road Schemes is not actually doing a very good job of even listing all the current schemes out there: a significant number of schemes in Highways England's current road programme are still not on there, for example, because I don't have enough hours in the day to add them all while keeping all the other plates spinning. And again, because it's not a complete resource, it's not as useful as it could be, so people don't visit.

3. It's not helping CBRD's reputation

The new-look CBRD, launched in summer 2017, is supposed to be a reliable resource and I go to great lengths to attribute pictures and information, list sources at the end of articles, fact-check and update old writing, and so on. But Road Schemes remains (for all the reasons above) incomplete and out of date, and that counts against the reputation of the whole site. (Not least when national newspapers sometimes make dubious headlines out of it.)

I would like to do things well or not at all, and in its present state, Road Schemes is half a job. It's also not at the heart of what CBRD is here for.

So what happens next?

I'm still thinking about it, but there are three options.

  1. Do nothing and continue as at present. (I'll be honest, this one isn't very likely.)
  2. Recruit a group of interested volunteers to actively maintain Road Schemes pages. They would get access to create and edit pages and moderate progress updates submitted by visitors to the site.
  3. Close down Road Schemes.

I'd be interested to know what you think and whether you would strongly oppose option 3, which is the current front runner. You can let me know in the comments below or by email.

Comments

Brad 23 January 2018

Perhaps just concentrate on some high profile ones i.e. motorway upgrades etc. While I for example may have some interest in the A15 Lincoln Eastern Bypass, I reckon I'm in the minority. Whereas the M25 upgrades will be of interest to many of us in the South.

Danny 23 January 2018

The loss of Road Schemes would sadden me as it is the main way I find out about them.

anonymous in response to Nobby 27 January 2018

In reply to by Nobby

Thirded

J. Dowling in response to anonymous 1 February 2018

In reply to by anonymous

Road Schemes is the only reason I visit your site!

It's the thing that got me here in the first place, the rest of the site is excellent but I would be be very disappointing to lose Road Schemes.

Agree with all the comments above. I always look for updates on the road scheme pages, and then find my attention drawn to other pages that catch my eye. I would rarely visit the website if it wasn’t for the road scheme pages.

I agree Bill. I would be disappointed to see the Road Schemes no longer available.

Ben Wright 24 January 2018

I only found your website yesterday. I found the current road schemes very useful as i am currently doing some research. to answer your question if you have a willing group to maintain that would be my pick.

Crinan Dunbar 24 January 2018

I think you only need to do a 6 monthly update, one to co-incide with the UK budget, and another to co-incinde with the UK nations budgets. In effect this will be an annual update for new schemes. I do also think you should get those interested to update CBRD on openings which of course will be what most are interested in.

Stephen Galley 24 January 2018

Definitely keep road schemes going, it is the only reason I visit.

Also, the reason why only 1% look at future road schemes will be people come on the site and see there are no new updates, or none which interest them, and therefore don't click on them. This is what I do, have a quick look to see if there are any new updates which interest me, if there aren't I leave the site.

Chris McKenna 24 January 2018

It would perhaps be a useful resource to include a directory of links to other places where we we can find out about various road schemes. However, as one of the principle reasons I visited today was to find what latest on the A14 upgrade is I'd be sad to see them go.

F.Pitt 24 January 2018

I often look at the 'Road Schemes' section, even at places I've never been to and probably never will go to, but I guess I have more of an interest in our road network than most and I can understand how some aren't too bothered about roadworks many miles away from where they live/work. If it's effecting your spare time though and your heart is not really in it, then you should stop, or maybe as someone has said, just concentrate on the major A roads/Motorways or even just any Motorway junction improvements. Having said that, it's nice that you bother to ask our opinion, when it's you that does all the hard work for us anyway, young Chris!

Toby Speight 24 January 2018

I'm one of the regular contributors to Road Schemes, and unsurprisingly I want to see it continue. But I do see how this part of the site, with updates coming in as plans and construction take place, is different to the in-depth articles that are written once and then only lightly refined.

It is a unique resource, and it would be sad to lose it. Although some projects do publish newsletters (locally, the new Queensferry Crossing has produced about 2 per year during construction, although they stopped once the bridge opened to traffic), many projects don't, or they drop off the net a couple of years after completion. What we end up with, once a scheme is completed or cancelled, is a permanent record of the progress that's unavailable anywhere else.

I would support some sort of delegation for Road Schemes. I tend to watch Transport Scotland and The Highland Council for roads news (also travelling through some of the projects) and update projects accordingly; if a few others mind their own areas similarly, then the job should be manageable. I'd even consent to being emailed by the site to ask if there's any updates on projects that haven't been touched for (say) six months, as long as there was a way to positively indicate "no change".

Steve 24 January 2018

Chris,

Please don't bin the Road Schemes section. Perhaps I am one of the very few who use this part of your awesome website, I can definitely check in even more often! Maybe the solution is to allow user editing to free yourself from the time it takes to update each scheme..?

Keep up the great work, especially on the Ringways!

Best regards,

Steve

Ed 24 January 2018

Don't remove the road schemes! It's the only reason I come here. It's fascinating looking through all the different projects which are going on around the country, and also looking at all the history of completed schemes. In fact I think you should dedicate more time to keeping the road schemes alive and well and less of your time blogging and twittering.
For the first time in 40 years the Government is collecting our taxes and using it to make our lives better. This is personified in RIS1, the upcoming RIS2 and the ring-fencing of all VED tax to road building. It is the Road Schemes section which shows all this.
Maybe 1% of your traffic is actually interested in all the projects going on around the country, the other 99% fleetingly arrived here through some Twitter link or something, only to leave again immediately.

Gustave Trouvé 24 January 2018

You make a compelling argument for killing Road Schemes off, and focusing on what really interests you and the majority of visitors.

If someone else wants to take up the baton, they are free to do so.

Gerry McKenna 25 January 2018

It would be a shame to bin Road Schemes completely however I do appreciate the effort involved in maintaining the section. Perhaps a stripped down "Start of Scheme / Completion of Scheme" protocol would be more manageable?

Andrew 25 January 2018

I adore this section of the website, it's my first go to when I get home from work, and I visit the pages whenever they are updated and show on the CBRD home page By all means increase user involvement, but I am thinking about your comment about media interest and therefore potential criticism for the slightest error. The Wikipedia model worked for them, perhaps initially delegate some editor rights on the road schemes to a few trusted people who are willing to do it for free? For example, you could give someone the responsibility *and accountability* for editing the road schemes in each region of England and country of the UK?

David Collier 25 January 2018

I'm a regular reader of the road schemes pages, but if letting them go would help to maintain the quality of the rest of the site, I'd absolutely support that.

I hope the list will be maintained in some way, and I'd be happy to contribute, but it doesn't necessarily have to be in its current form. As others said on Twitter, it would seem to be a good candidate for conversion to a wiki format.

Sean 25 January 2018

Definitely find a way to keep the section running, it's a good resource and could be even better.

Patrickov 26 January 2018

2 seems a better solution than 3. As you said, if there's no other place to summarize the stuff it probably should continue. You just need some people to do it for you, or get the process automated to minimise workload to a manageable level.

Ian 26 January 2018

When I visit CBRD, about once a fortnight, it is Road Schemes to which I go first. I appreciate it can be time consuming and wonder perhaps if better use can be made of links to official sites. For example on the A1231 entry (nothing for a year) a link to https://www.sunderland.gov.uk/article/14608/Northern-Spire would give a lot of information. In essence the bridge is in place but not open to traffic. Now I know that because I can see that from my office (and local news bulletins) but I don't know enough to update the page.
I would support the idea of others assisting you to continue to provide what is a very well appreciated service. I think that you may well end up with a hybrid instead of Option 1, 2 or 3, so it could be that the pages are restricted in what they include and a small number of people assist you - even if that is somebody taking the comments, and checking them out before you add the text. Perhaps a request against a different scheme each week for readers to do some research, starting with the A96 as that was last updated three years ago. However, the official link you have there does the job very well - so perhaps you could simply update the date this was last reviewed (rather than physically updated) - and the recent Carillion events potentially affecting the Aberdeen Bypass may be too topical to include
.

Anonymous 26 January 2018

I find Road Schemes on this site very useful. Please don't discontinue it!

Fraser Mitchell 26 January 2018

I would like to see this section kept running as I did find it useful for schemes in and around the North West, indeed I did contribute a couple of times when we had local schemes on the go. It does now seem to be a bit buried compared to the old site pages. Soon we are to have quite a few things happening around Crewe so I'll contribute. We have the Crewe Green roundabout scheme starting next week, and the Congleton Link Road soon. Then there will be the Barthomley Link dualling, (20 years late !!!). HS2 is likely to lead to more schemes to improve access to the HS2 station.

I'm not sure if I can initiate an entry, so please advise.

Tony 26 January 2018

It would be a shame to lose it - I do tend to look it up when I use this site. Perhaps a small team of volunteers managing it would be good.

Anonymous 26 January 2018

Keep the notable ones that are clearly in progress and under construction.

Douglas 27 January 2018

CBRD is a unique website and a large reason I keep coming back is to get updates on what is happening on our roads. The road schemes section is a large part of my motivation for visiting the site. The other articles are interesting, but once you've read them once, you don't go back and read them again. I think you will find this is the big difference between regular visitors and casual visitors who only come once. Your site analysis/visitor counters should be sophisticated enough to show this.

I appreciate that anyone doing this as a hobby has limited time and would suggest you do explore getting others to help with the road schemes section, although it will be important to attempt to ensure a similarity of writing styles of all your contributors to maintain the standard and feel of the website overall.

Jim 27 January 2018

I am an irregular user of the road schemes page, perhaps twice a year. This is because it doesn't change very often because road schemes don't change very quickly. It is very valuable resource because collects both national and local schemes in one place and is the only location I have seen this information. It would be a huge loss to see it go, so I would ask that some way is found to keep it going.

Peter Sheehan 27 January 2018

I would certainly miss the road schemes section. It is my main source of road development throughout the country. I visit nearly every day.

Nigel Peart 27 January 2018

Although i'm an infrequent visitor I hope you don't bin this section.
I'm really interested in the ongoing plans for M2 J5.
Best wishes ongoing!

Geoff 28 January 2018

Not yet joined as an active member, but regular visitor to the site and have always found the road scheme section really useful.

Hope you will be able to retain it!

Owen H 28 January 2018

I'd be very sorry to see Road Schemes disappear. When I visit cbrd, it's where I usually go.
I view it a couple of times a month and find it of interest; it will also make a valuable historical resource in the fullness of time.
I'd support option (2) and I'd be prepared to contribute a little time as a volunteer.
Out of interest, you say that 99% of "visitors don't seem to find it interesting or useful" (because they don't visit Road Schemes - would you consider publishing some data showing where these 99% do go?

David Meldrum 28 January 2018

When you took a break a few years back ( due, I would have thought to the workload ?), the Road Update section was the bit I missed most.

I fully realise that it’s your hobby and we can’t expect you to continue with something that’s time consuming and reading between the lines, unrewarding for you.
That said, it would be sorely missed ( very surprised that it’s only 1% of the site traffic ) and would urge you to consider your second option of farming it out.
If, after a period of say, 18 months, you feel it’s not working, then you can revisit?

Keep up the good work on the other 99% !!!

Stephen Field 29 January 2018

I hope a way can be found to keep it going. I find the section really useful, and it is still the only real way to summarise schemes across the whole country in one place. With 3 national organisations and countless local authorities its so good to have everything together. It will be a shame if you have to close it down, however if this is the case thank you very much for your service.

Dirkt 29 January 2018

Have to confess that this is one of main sections I go to when I check in to the site. It can be very hard to work out what is happening with ongoing schemes. Scotland has many road projects at this time. Hoping this stays. I also should say that I am sure many will appreciate all the work done. Thanks again

Robert 30 January 2018

I too love the road schemes section. It would be a shame to lose it. To save you time perhaps it could just be a list of schemes, with links - if there are any - to other sites that offer progress updates, and no updates on Cbrd at all? This keeps it as a valuable go-to resource but means that newspapers will have to do their own research if they want to comment further.

John Dye 30 January 2018

Please keep it. It is very useful to see what changes are planned

Thomas Walker 30 January 2018

I'm surprised by the 1% figure to be honest. I regularly visit this site purely for the road schemes page and only visit other parts of the site because I'm already here for the schemes page. It is the only site like it (along with a similar one for Northern Ireland) and I'd be quite lost trying to navigate Highways England's fairly terrible website without it.

Thomas Walker 30 January 2018

It's also worth noting that most visitors to the road schemes page will be clicking on dozens of links off of it to pages about each of the various schemes. So you need to add all those up to get the right percentage figure.

Jon Vanner 1 February 2018

The road schemes pages are the main reason I visit the site. I would miss them if they were to go.

Martin 1 February 2018

I've visited your Road Schemes quite regularly since I first discovered your site over 10 years ago. I would strongly advise you not to bin it, you may be looked upon as conceding to the Daily Fail and to the powers of Whitehall etc. to dictate what you publish. It's a very useful resource so keep it and don't let them control your life or your website. The enthusiast websites are always more informative than the rest.

PaulB 2 February 2018

Please don't discontinue it. Most informative and interesting. It goes slowly because the timescales for major road projects are sooooo long, and often long periods of time pass without publicly-visible announcements. We really appreciate what you do here, and the time you out in. It's a shame that our own government and agencies don;t appreciate that there needs to be an authoritative central resource of this sort of public information. The costs of them running such a facility are infinitely small, compared to the total size of budgets available. But of course, a government portal web-site would be full of politically correct statements and dull as ditchwater without unofficial comments, local knowledge and a healthy dose of cynicism. Who wants another bland GDS-style government portal labyrinth web-site anyway. You know, large fonts, odd colour scheme and layout and hardly any pictures or interactivity.

Stu Pickett 3 February 2018

I am a big fan of the 'Road Schemes' section of the website, as it was the first reason that brought be here. I always take it's relevance with a pinch of salt based on the fact that it is updated by user feedback, so only tend to glance through every 3-4 months now. I do agree it is sad that it is not working as intended. Perhaps some form of compromise? E.g. only a quarterly monthly update of all schemes based on user information sent in (with an accompanying disclaimer to any unwise hacks who attempt to generate headlines from the current 'status' shown), or divide the schemes into 'regions', much like the Highways website does for major schemes, and see if there are sufficient regular users of your site in each region willing to take on the 'updating'? With a little guidance, I would be willing to at least have a go at being one such person, to understand what would be required.

Edward 5 February 2018

I personally find the road schemes interesting to keep an eye on, but find the articles / blogs more interesting. If I had to choose between the two, I would say drop road schemes.

YNM 6 February 2018

While it's true most of the information here are directly taken from govt sites, searching within said govt site for a particular stuff can be tedious. I wouldn't mind if this is just "here's what's happening, look up *here (else)* for latest", because it simplifies searching up and down govt and HE/TS/(wales ?) sites ! Not to mention they sometimes change site entirely.

Also, every other time stuff crop up in wider news, this would be a handy place to collect them I suppose ?

Keep up the work Chris !

Daniel 8 February 2018

It's a useful reference; I've used it regularly. Perhaps if resources are tight you may want to consider confining it to a certain criterion, let's say designated (T) trunk roads, components of the strategic road network, or more ambitiously anything receiving a central government grant and just leaving out the ones that are totally dependent on the local authority.

Danny 9 February 2018

As an ex-pat I find it interesting to see what's going on around places I used to live. I always used to try and provide updates where possible on schemes I drove by regularly. All I can do is hope that people will continue to do this and your comments will drive this further.
Thanks for all your efforts Chris.

Alan R 9 February 2018

Please find a way to try and keep this section going, it's the first thing I visit any time I'm on the site and it's what brought me here today - looking for the answer to a question which it duly did answer

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