The future of Road Schemes

Published on 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

MrEnder666 18 February 2018

Option 2 would be the best for you and the site's visitors. DO NOT SELECT OPTION 3.

Anonymous 19 February 2018

I'm hoping that the A1(M) road scheme Leeming to Barton will be updated shortly to reflect a Public Notice in The Northern Echo on 19 February advising that motorway status will be applied to the remaining section from 26 February 2018

David. 20 February 2018

I regularly visit the road schemes page, it's really quite nice to know what is and what is not being built at any one time.

As soon as any of the schemes are anywhere near where I live/work/travel, then I will gladly post updates. Unfortunately, there are no schemes near me at the moment.

Nick Mager 21 February 2018

The Road Schemes Section is the best thing about the site since you did away with the simulator. It would be sorely missed if it were binned and CBRD would just become another nostalgia site.

bolus 1 March 2018

Can't find the road schemes section. It's evidently been binned, meaning that was the plan all along so "consultation exercise" is eerily similar to government working practices, ie go through consultation exercise and ignore all feedback and continue with original plan. V disappointing.

You can access Road Schemes using the link in the main menu at the top of every page, or the link in the first line of this blog post, or indeed by following this link. If and when anything changes, there will be a blog post like this one explaining what's happening and why.

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