Road during Covid-19 restrictions; Road during Covid-19 restrictions;

COVID-19 Local Authority travel and transport data, England

Building a transport data pipeline across England

Data is becoming increasingly important in driving decisions around transport policy, infrastructure and related services. Traditionally, data that is collected, stored and analysed on local roads is managed separately by different Local Authorities. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, the UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) identified a need to develop a more holistic understanding of the entire road network in England to support decision making around the pandemic.

Through a commission to deliver the Transport Technology Forum (TTF) on behalf of DfT, Arup’s Intelligent Mobility specialists and Transport Consultants were asked to support an urgent ‘call to arms’ requesting Local Authorities and private companies to share their data. The Arup-led commission, including White Willow Consulting, developed a data pipeline to support the Government in understanding how lockdown measures were impacting travel movements on roads across England.

The work has been a hugely collaborative effort across the industry, with the DfT, Arup and White Willow Consulting working closely with over 40 Local Authorities and private data providers. It represents the first time the industry had had a far more complete and up to date understanding of the transport network on England’s local roads.

Project Summary

28.5m+ journeys processed

42local authorities covered

70+data suppliers in total

Making sense of data from different sources

The team collected data from 6,000 traffic and cycling sensors, Automated Traffic Counters, Bluetooth devices, Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras and CCTV. As the data was collected and processed in different ways by different authorities, the team applied a schema to collate the data into a useable, consistent format for analysis.

As well as collecting motor vehicle movements, the team also processed cycling datasets covering 29 Local Authorities and parking datasets from 30 providers, totalling 11.5 million movements. The traffic and cycling data pipeline now collates data into a central repository to support analysis. This provides key intelligence for the DfT and others in Government as we recover from the pandemic, including in areas such as economic activity and the take-up of active travel.

Change in average daily traffic flow Change in average daily traffic flow Change in average daily traffic flow
Sample data output: Weekly data digests which have been published via the Transport Technology Forum’s website

The insights from the data pipeline are published as weekly digests by the Transport Technology Forum, the UK’s forum funded by the DfT and Innovate UK that seeks to bring leadership, direction and support to stimulate investment in innovation and technology solutions within transport. The project team also share processed data back to Local Authorities, so that they too can benefit from insight to inform planning decisions to better meet the changing needs of the public.

Future applications of the data pipeline

This work represents the first time the industry has had a far more complete and up to date understanding of the whole transport network in England, presenting exciting applications beyond supporting the COVID-19 response. The data is expected to inform future transport infrastructure and policy decisions, such as where new infrastructure may be needed to meet demand.


Intelligent Transport Society (ITS-UK) 2020 -
Project of the Year