An expensive service for the few

September 13, 2010 3:03 PM

I have recently learned of a radio broadcast – called Traffic Radio – run by the Highways Agency (HA) and Transport for London (TfL) that can only be listened to via a digital radio or online. Not much use when you’re driving! Indeed on the website for the radio broadcast it states that “Less than 1% of vehicles currently have a DAB set installed”.

The broadcast markets its service as something to listen to before your journey. The website states

“Setting out on a journey? Before you go, listen to Traffic Radio to hear the latest:
•    Traffic conditions on the motorways, major A roads and London’s main roads.
•    Emergency incidents.
•    Roadworks.”

But, as any driver will know, conditions on the roads are constantly changing and drivers need live updates. These traffic updates are already offered by local BBC radio stations and local commercial stations through FM and AM radios fitted in the vast majority of cars.

Traffic Radio claims it does not compete with the BBC and commercial market because it “provides information not entertainment. It is only intended to be a dip-in dip-out service and should not distract listeners from their current choice of station long-term.” Well there certainly is no contest when the majority of drivers can access other traffic updates through FM and AM and set them to occur periodically, so as not distract them from their other choice of station. 

So how much does this information service cost? Traffic Radio costs approximately £2.8 million to run across England per year. Or, put another way, £10.36 per vehicle who can access the service in their car via a DAB radio. And people say there isn’t waste to be cut in the public sector!I have recently learned of a radio broadcast – called Traffic Radio – run by the Highways Agency (HA) and Transport for London (TfL) that can only be listened to via a digital radio or online. Not much use when you’re driving! Indeed on the website for the radio broadcast it states that “Less than 1% of vehicles currently have a DAB set installed”.

The broadcast markets its service as something to listen to before your journey. The website states

“Setting out on a journey? Before you go, listen to Traffic Radio to hear the latest:
•    Traffic conditions on the motorways, major A roads and London’s main roads.
•    Emergency incidents.
•    Roadworks.”

But, as any driver will know, conditions on the roads are constantly changing and drivers need live updates. These traffic updates are already offered by local BBC radio stations and local commercial stations through FM and AM radios fitted in the vast majority of cars.

Traffic Radio claims it does not compete with the BBC and commercial market because it “provides information not entertainment. It is only intended to be a dip-in dip-out service and should not distract listeners from their current choice of station long-term.” Well there certainly is no contest when the majority of drivers can access other traffic updates through FM and AM and set them to occur periodically, so as not distract them from their other choice of station. 

So how much does this information service cost? Traffic Radio costs approximately £2.8 million to run across England per year. Or, put another way, £10.36 per vehicle who can access the service in their car via a DAB radio. And people say there isn’t waste to be cut in the public sector!

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