Traffic management: Walk this way

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Traffic management is a term often misunderstood. But do you have adequate traffic management plans in place?

In March and April, Exhibition Traffic Management Services (ETMS) will handle the Ideal Home Show’s traffic management requirements, before moving on and managing the needs of the Chelsea Flower Show. Before that, in February, Gerry Kilsby, ETMS’ managing director, and his team will also oversee traffic movements during London Fashion Week at Somerset House.

Much careful planning and consideration goes into traffic management, yet according to Kilsby, it’s an often misinterpreted or misunderstood element, and the duties of the contractor may vary according to the event and venue.

“It is a fact that the first and often the last point of contact with a venue is nearly always a man in a hi-vis jacket – the traffic marshal,” Kilsby explains. “It follows therefore that the image of the venue or event can be conveyed before visitors even set foot on the premises. The manner in which drivers are addressed, the courtesy they are afforded and the information they are given is paramount.

Experienced, pro-active and safety conscious staff with good inter-personal and communication skills, together perhaps with the use of porters to assist with unloading, can make the difference between a slick and efficient build-up and an organisers’ office full of complainants.”

Pre-show planning and scheduling, liaison with Police and local authorities, issuing traffic instructions, sourcing and operating off-site holding parks, efficient site management, including chasing selfish drivers who use the unloading areas as a parking facility, are only some of the responsibilities of a traffic management contractor.

He continues: “Speed Cameras, bus lanes, congestion charges, parking restrictions are just some of the issues that affect most of us in our daily lives, and often cause heated debate – if not anxiety. Likewise, many of us will at some time have expressed an opinion on an event-related traffic issue, whether as an organiser, contractor or visitor.  Despite this, relatively little time is dedicated to the subject at the planning stages, with organisers often preferring to ‘leave it to the experts’, or simply not addressing the subject at all.

“In venue terms, size doesn’t matter, as often the most challenging traffic issues occur at the smallest of venues. With so many excellent new facilities now available it is no wonder that events will be attracted to those in great locations. However these often lack adequate parking or access for the inevitable HGV. Conversely, large open field sites such as the Royal Hospital Grounds in Chelsea, Battersea and Hyde Parks, whilst having certain advantages also bring their own challenges. Located adjacent to public roads and pedestrian areas, such sites need special attention to safety.”



The PSP Southampton Boat Show is annual event taking place each September. Organisers, Egham-based National Boat Show, contracted Exhibition Traffic Management Services in 2009 to handle the traffic movements of 2,500 vehicles during the build and break down, including 300 boat transporters, which can measure up to 90-feet long. ETMS supplied 26 traffic marshals, and off-site marshalling, to co-ordinate abnormal loads with lifting contractors, liaise with lifting crew, hauliers and floor managers and ensure on-site safety within the traffic management regime.

ETMS managed the traffic on the 35-acre site, adjacent to Southampton Docks, assisting over 450 exhibitors during load in and load out.

Kilsby explains: Unlike most events, boats shows are somewhat different in that the land-based exhibits are often positioned before the stands are built. This is due to both the size of the exhibits – some boats can be as much at 21-metres long and weigh 40-50 tons – or the location of the stand. A strict schedule of arrival (and departure) has to be created and maintained. Add to this the complexities of the logistics; moving abnormal loads is no straightforward matter. Arrival times are crucial, as is the strict management of all site traffic, if we are to ensure that the cranes to offload them [boats] have good access and egress.

“ETMS has handled both London and Southampton boat shows for over 20 years and our experience is crucial to the operation. The site must be properly and safely managed at all times. Therefore, all but the largest trucks are sent to an off-site holding area from where they are marshaled as space allows. Our team work closely with the organisers and lifting contractors [Stanco] to create a safe and efficient site.”

In control

Coventry-based Cash and Traffic Management (CTM) won in 1998 the on-site parking contracts for both Glastonbury and Burghley Horse Trials – two contracts that, managing director Steve Russell-Yarde still holds till this day.

CTM also manage the traffic requirements of Coventry Half Marathon, which takes place at the end of October.

David Macdonald, operations manager, Cash and Traffic Management, takes up the story: “The Coventry Half Marathon is situated on a route that begins in the city centre and then moves through the residential suburbs of Coventry before returning to the city centre. To ensure the safety of the runners all roads along the route have to be closed. One of the main challenges with any event of this type is ensuring that local residents and businesses are aware of the restrictions, which will be put in place and to minimise the disruption caused to them.

“As the traffic management contractor our event manager works closely with the planning group to ensure all information regarding the locations and timings of the closures and alternative routes is included in the information sent to residents and businesses on the route. We also work with AA Signs in developing the signage schedule and traffic management plans for the event, the schedule is made up of over 350 signs and 5,000 traffic cones, all being deployed on the morning of the event.”

With any event, it is important to ensure staff are briefed thoroughly not only on their individual responsibilities but also have information on the event itself allowing them to deal with enquiries from the public.

Continues Macdonald: “We have a briefing day the day prior to the event for all our managers, supervisors, radio operatives, bikers and drivers to ensure that they are all fully briefed on the event and their individual responsibilities.


“Our operation begins at 2.30am, deploying our road closure staff and installing road closures around the city centre to ensure the start finish area is sterile for the build. This is followed by the deployment of 300 more staff to over 150 additional road closures, which are put in place between 7am and 9am. All staff are issued with a briefing book and individual briefing cards for the road closure they are working at and given a verbal briefing by their section supervisor.”


Over the last four years, CTM has found that the key to the successful management of the road closures and traffic management for an event results from good communication with all parties in both the planning stage and on the day of the event. With so many staff spread across a very large area it is very important to have a clear communication and good management system.

The Coventry Half Marathon route is divided into six sections, with each having a manager and two supervisors to ensure all closures are in place, enabling CTM to deal with issues quickly and efficiently.

“Our management team on the ground is further supported by an overall event manager who is responsible for the traffic management that forms part of the event emergency action team and is primarily based in event control. They are also supported by control room radio operatives who are allocated sections of the route and act as the liaison between individual section managers and our event manager and other agencies such as a the Police and local authority officials,” Macdonald concludes.