Dorset gets its shared services motor running

Case study: Heading out on the database highway

Case study: Heading out on the database highway

Three councils in the West Country have teamed up on a shared services project to bring together information around road maintenance and management.

The highway departments at the Bournemouth and Poole unitary authorities and Dorset County Council have teamed up on a new database system that will help them to better share information on road works, in order to cut the disruption for drivers.

The shared services scheme allows each local authority to access information related to roadworks in the two other areas. As a result, responses such as diversions can be co-ordinated where roads cross local authority boundaries and long-term decisions can be better informed.

As well as making the management of the road network more efficient, the database also feeds into the websites of the different authorities so that roadwork information can be published to the public.

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Speaking to, Martin Dover, traffic control and information systems team leader for Bournemouth unitary authority, said: "The main benefit for us is that on one system we see [data from] all three [authorities] so we can see if there's going to be any cross-boundary problems."

As the boundaries between Poole and Bournemouth are sometimes unclear, for example, people often contact the local authority about a road in the other area. With the shared services in place, the council that has been contacted can find the issue on the shared database and then flag it to its counterpart which controls the road in question.

Dorset County Council handled the implementation of the shared services middleware provided by asset management company Exor and the project has allowed each local authority to save money in terms of staff costs, with fewer people needed to manage the system within each council.

According to Dover, the project has also allowed Bournemouth to cut its licence costs by more than half.

"Obviously if we each had our own system we'd each be paying our own licence fee and our own maintenance," he said.

Dover said the main challenge with the project was making sure the correct data goes to the right people. "There were issues with splitting the database and I think that was one of the main reasons why our delivery was late," he added.

As a result, the system went live in June rather than 1 April as intended, according to Dover, but is now working well.

The three highway departments went live with the project in June last year, in order to meet the requirements of the Traffic Management Act which encourages greater collaboration between local authorities.