Midland Expressway Limited, operator of M6toll in England, has partnered with data management company Sagacity to collect data on traffic as COVID restrictions are lifted.
The M6toll, which opened in 2003, is the UK’s only privately funded and tolled motorway and was built at a cost of £1 billion (US$1.4 billion) of private investment. It was built and operated by Midlands Expressway Limited until the company sold it for a reported £2 billion to IFM, which is owned by several Australian pension funds, in 2016. However, Midlands Expressway Limited is operating the infrastructure until 2054.
The six-lane M6toll stretches for 43km from Junction 11a on the publicly owned M6 motorway to re-join it at Junction 3a. M6toll is essentially a limited-access private motorway designed to bypass Birmingham and the M6 which handles a lot of local traffic, especially during rush hours.
Midlands says that around 50,000 customers use the M6 daily and at peak times around 85% of all cars and 55% of all large trucks travelling long-distance through the M6 corridor past the city of Birmingham use the M6toll.
Earlier this year, Midlands started trials of a new automatic number plate recognition-based tolling system with operators of trucks and vans as part of Midland’s Road Ahead digital transformation strategy. The goal is to offer more options for drivers to save money and make more efficient use of the tolled motorway. Engineering services company Stantec was brought in to refurbish the tolling system.
As part of M6toll’s overall Road Ahead strategy, Sagacity says that is has enabled Midland Expressway to extract value from its data by moving the motorway operator from a federated, manual approach to a new “data management solution for analytics” that runs on Microsoft Azure. Internal and external insights are now connected into a data mart, with reports and dashboards created on Microsoft Power BI.
A data mart, as against the larger data warehouse, is a much more defined set of data that allows businesses to perform more complex analytics finely tuned to their end needs. sales, finance, or marketing. Data marts – that sit within data warehouses - can speed up business processes by allowing access to relevant information within a data warehouse or operational data store within days instead of months or longer.
“The effective use of data will be increasingly critical as we see a recovery to pre-COVID-19 traffic levels and the lifting of travel restrictions, coupled with the trend for stay-cations,” said Gavin Revell, chief information officer at Midland Expressway Limited. “Like any progressive business, we know that data is an asset. By working with Sagacity, we are harnessing internal and external data, making it work even harder for us going forward.”
Sagacity implemented the new system during the first half of 2021, enabling Midland to fully analyse the COVID-19 recovery across the wider network and the impact this was having on the M6toll. Reporting processes have also been made faster, more accurate and more secure.
The data mart has already been adopted across MEL’s commercial and IT teams, and over the next 12 months the footprint will extend to e-commerce, health and safety and asset management, leading to a more holistic view, said Chris Stephenson, technical director at Sagacity.