In 2018 we began a video research project with Highways England and Atkins Global that involved travelling to a number of motorway service stations to conduct professionally filmed vox pops interviews with drivers. The purpose of the project was to gain insight about the increase of speed through roadworks, which was being trialled across England. The trials meant that drivers could travel through roadworks at a speed of 60mph instead of 50mph.
Highways England wanted to understand how their drivers felt about this and to what extent this shift in speed would impact their overall journey experience. These insights would help inform whether or not Highways England would support this transition in future.
In the preliminary stages, we worked collaboratively with Highways England to select which motorway service stations we would conduct fieldwork in. We researched each of the service stations to understand more about the route, popularity, and more importantly how busy they would be, to give us the highest possible footfall and the best opportunity to speak with consumers.</br>
Our respondents needed to be familiar with the road in question in order to provide a breadth of insight both before and during the trial, i.e. what might be different and what is the same. To facilitate this, we conducted our fieldwork at locations where the trial had already been in place for 2 weeks or more. This ensured that drivers had used the road regularly and we would be able to measure their awareness, such as whether or not they noticed the change in speed.
“The videos are great. I would like to thank you for all your hard work with these. You’ve been really supportive of what we were trying to achieve and the patience and flexibility you’ve shown due to the changing trial dates has been much appreciated.”
Highways England wanted to gain insight first hand from their consumers, which would not only inform their research, but also provide them with something tangible to share both internally and externally once reporting was complete. Sharing clips from the interviews publicly on social media would help Highways England to validate the results of the survey. Here’s an example from their Facebook page:
Utilising qualitative techniques we created a discussion guide that focussed on consumer awareness of the trial i.e. did the consumer notice the change of speed limit in place, thoughts on the prospect of increasing the speed limit i.e. whether or not this was deemed safe, and understanding / comparing 60mph to 50mph, focusing on consumer concerns, benefits of the speed, and overall impact.
We also created a secondary discussion guide which spoke more generally about the prospect of raising the speed limit through road works (not specific to the motorway in question), just to ensure we were able to cover all bases if need be.
On completion of fieldwork we provided Highways England with a short written summary on each location pulling out the key insights and themes. These summaries were also used to form the basis for our ‘first edits’. This stage proved to be vital as it helped Highways England to understand which themes and insights they wanted to share with the public in line with their report.
We found that the majority of participants were in favour of the change in speed limit through road works and our interviews would be used on social media to help strengthen, validate, and bring to life Highways England’s findings. The report was shared in July 2020 and they announced the speed limit through roadworks would be raised from 50mph to 60mph, where safe to do so. Here’s an announcement from their LinkedIn page:
“All of our research shows that road users benefit from 60mph limits in roadworks. They have shorter journey times and feel safe.”