The coronavirus is having an impact on the amount of travel currently undertaken in the UK as more and more people are starting to work from home in order to combat the spread of the virus; in addition the schools are facing a countrywide closure from 20th March 2020.  

As a result, travel patterns are becoming more irregular and now reaching the point where they can no longer be deemed as “typical” or indeed within a “neutral” period.

Some local highway authorities in the UK have already began to make announcements that they will not be accepting traffic survey data which has been undertaken from this week. This is likely to be the case until travel patterns return to normal.  The risk of undertaking traffic surveys during a non-typical period is that this can be challenged by authorities, the public and objectors to a planning application.  It may also lead to a request for the traffic surveys to be carried out again, once traffic patterns normalise.

mode has been discussing this unusual set of circumstances with a number of traffic survey companies and they do intend to continue surveying as long as it is deemed feasible.  One of the more prominent survey companies has been in conversation with the Department for Transport (DfT) on their national census surveys and the DfT suggested keep surveying, even if the counts are suppressed.

In addition to our transport assessment work, this will also have a knock on effect on Air Quality and Noise Assessments. Notwithstanding the above, there are viable alternatives to undertaking new traffic surveys, such as:

  • requesting access to the Local Highway Authorities own data sources;
  • using data available from county’s strategic traffic models (where available);
  • obtaining mobile phone anonymised data sets of movement;
  • speaking with our data providers to see if they hold useful data that can be utilised; and
  • utilising existing traffic data in the public domain from previous planning applications (these must have been undertaken within the last 3-years).

It may also still be possible to agree with the local highways authority to allow traffic surveys to be undertaken, perhaps with the application of factors to rationalise the data.  We are currently exploring what previous data could be used to generate factors to make adjustments during this period. However, we will need to test and agree this with highways officers prior to recommending this as a suitable option.

We will keep you posted if any alternative options are deemed acceptable or if there are any further developments in relation to this matter.  In the meantime, if you do have any schemes which need to come forward over the next six months, please let us know as early on as possible. This will enable us to advise if traffic surveys can be booked or look at what alternatives are available so as to try and minimise delays in the preparation of transport assessments and planning applications.

One final point, it should be noted that not all schemes actually require traffic impact assessments to be undertaken and those with a quantum of development not exceeding the requirement for a full Transport Assessments should not be effected by restrictions on traffic surveys.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss the above in more detail, please get in touch.