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Transport Scotland has £47m to drag its traffic management systems into the 21st century

Existing supplier was first contracted back in the 1990s

Transport Scotland is on the hunt for an IT vendor to support and update traffic management systems in a £47m move that could see the end of a relationship dating back to the 1990s.

The public body is responsible for a £2.5bn transport investment programme and has issued a tender notice for the maintenance and modernisation of its Traffic Scotland Service.

The service relies on its "Intelligent Transport Systems" as well as web-based information systems, databases, and supporting ICT systems to "enable the collection and distribution of real-time traffic information relating to incidents and events taking place on the Scottish trunk road network," according to the contract notice.

Please don't change the format of the RSS structure without informing your users a few months in advance. It breaks a lot of stuff when you do

The contract is set to last five years with the option to extend for a further two years at Scottish ministers' discretion.

On the list of potential services to be procured under the contract are programming, consultancy, systems support, database and operating systems support. The main base for the service will be Scotland National Control Centre in Glasgow.

In a relationship spanning decades, Cubic Transportation Systems is the current systems provider.

Its existing contract with the department is set to expire in October 2022, following the award of a single-year contract extension for £7.2m "to ensure service continuity during and after the current coronavirus, COVID-19, outbreak and to allow for the completion of re-procurement of the requirement," according to a tender notice published in 2020.

According to the notice, that extension was of an earlier contract awarded in late 2014 and originally meant to complete in 2021, when Cubic said it would be "delivering a single integrated service of critical Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) infrastructure across Scotland's trunk road network."

When the 2014 deal was inked, Hugh Gillies, head of network operations at Transport Scotland, said it would build systems to "collect information about the road network, to help us manage it efficiently while also providing real-time journey planning information to road users."

Cubic built the core traffic management system for Transport Scotland in the mid-1990s, and has maintained and developed it consistent with technology advances. Meanwhile, IBI Group created the infrastructure, including the website, which delivers traffic information and journey time service, the press notice said.

The system currently publishes data in the DATEX II format, developed by the European Committee for Standardization, and FTP.

According to a 2017 survey [PDF], there was an "appetite for innovation" among consumers of the service data. In developing the ITS strategy, the report recommended consideration of "technological advances" such as "connected, cooperative and autonomous vehicles; smart cities; big data analytics; cloud computing; [and] the growth of smartphones, mobile devices."

Among users of the DATEX II feed, there was sage advice on any new systems development. "Please don't change the format of the RSS structure without informing your users a few months in advance. It breaks a lot of stuff when you do," one said.

Another was frank in their assessment of the service: "There is a lot of data missing in the feeds which show in English feeds... Look at Highways England – they are doing it better."

The first task of the winning bidder may be to redress this imbalance with arch-rivals south of the border. ®

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