A major stewardship challenge for toll roads in Australia arises when the value of paid travel is not immediately apparent to customers because they cannot see what the traffic is like on the alternative un-tolled route. In peak periods, when traffic volumes lift and speeds inevitably slow, increased congestion can create a perception that toll roads do not represent good value for money.
Transurban is an ASX-listed toll road services company that owns and operates concessions in Australia, including most recently WestConnex, identified that it’s roads are increasingly important to the movement of people and goods in Australia’s three largest cities.
In 2017, Transurban was recognised as an exemplar for its work establishing the LinktGo project. LinktGo was released in NSW for trial in May 2017. It is a GPS- based smartphone app that enables users to pay for their tolling trip-by-trip without commitment or the need for a tag.
Research through the Transurban Voice of Customer program revealed that the value for money from toll roads is less apparent when traffic volumes increase and speeds slow. Customer feedback indicated that trust between customer and toll road operators could be increased if there was increased transparency around road performance and if this information was available in a timely manner to help motorists make more informed travel choices.
Transurban prioritised this challenge to find a solution. It initiated a customer-centred ideation process that tested innovative ways to share information that enabled customers to see their travel time savings and toll costs, and weigh up the real time benefits of toll road travel.
This process identified the opportunity for development of a solution that helped motorists easily compare toll roads to alternative roads at their nominated time of travel. The solution would make it easy to compare value attributes such as time savings, vehicle efficiency and travel ease against toll costs.
In 2018, Linkt Melbourne launched Trip Compare – a travel comparison tool that provides transparent information on the performance and value of CityLink compared to alternative non-tolled routes.
Available on the Linkt Melbourne website (linkt.com. au/melbourne/using-toll-roads/trip-compare), motorists can select example tolled travel routes, and compare both current and future estimated travel time savings, toll costs, fuel usage and CO2 emissions. The comparator tool also identifies the number of traffic lights that can be avoided on the tolled option when compared with the next best alternative route.
This information in Trip Compare is calculated using a variety of independent data sources including Google Maps data, VicRoads traffic light data, and vehicle efficiency formulas that are aligned with Transurban’s current sustainability reporting.
Making these comparisons readily available enables customers to make a holistic assessment of value. It helps them to make informed travel choices and have greater confidence that toll road travel, when they choose it, meets their personal needs.
Transurban is currently using the learnings from this concept to explore additional ways to communicate information that might be useful for customers. Over time it expects their value-added services to evolve into more powerful tools that help customers assess value and make informed decisions before, during and after their travel.