Digital navigation negates the economic benefits of road widening: the case of the M1 motorway.

I previously mentioned my analysis of the widening of the M1 motorway between junctions 10 and 13. My paper has now been published in a peer-reviewed journal: Transportation Research Part A, 174, 103749. The abstract is below. Access to the article may be available free of charge for a limited period here


Cost-benefit analysis of road investments involves models that generate travel time savings as the main economic benefit. Evaluation five years after opening of a scheme to widen a section of England’s M1 motorway between junctions 10 and 13 found that the traffic moved more slowly than before the scheme opened. Comparison was made with forecast flows generated by SATURN variable demand modelling and an associated economic model. Substantial net benefits to business users were forecast, whereas for non-business users time saving benefits were more than offset by increased vehicle operation costs, consistent with diversion of local trips to take advantage of the increase in capacity. There is reason to suppose that such diversion is facilitated by the wide adoption of Digital Navigation (known generally as satnav), which makes evident the fastest route choices, even at the expense of increased fuel costs. Diversion of local trips to utilise new strategic road capacity seems likely to be a general phenomenon, which detracts from the economic case for road investment. There is therefore a good case to treat the strategic road network as mature, focussing on improving operational efficiency and exploiting vehicle-to-infrastructure connectivity in the form of Digital Navigation.