Stage 0: Feasibility
Step 0.1 - Feasibility Study
The initial stage in the development of any pilot, i.e. feasibility, is about establishing the potential benefits and impacts of undertaking a pilot. This feasibility assessment would draw upon the breadth of previous experience and skills both inside and outside the Agency.
The need for and size of the feasibility study should be related to the scale of the pilot and the value and impact of the innovations should it be rolled out. Experience within the HA has shown significant benefits of greater up-front investment during the early stages of a pilot and this is to be encouraged, for example: the feasibility study undertaken for ATM [HA/TRL 2001]
A feasibility study would typically address the following issues:
- Problem and concerns
- Previous experience
- An impact assessment
- Potential cost and benefits leading to business case
- Potential pilot sites
- Preliminary programme
Problem and concerns
When the Highways Agency is presented with a concept or innovation that could potentially be used to solve a network problem the first stage would normally be to undertake a feasibility study. This would investigate its application and appropriateness to the HA network and alignment with the HA vision, aims and objectives.
In taking forward a feasibility study it is critical that the objectives and outcomes from the feasibility study are clearly defined and agreed with interested parties.
One of the first steps should be collecting and reviewing previous experience both within the HA and other parts of government and also from the broader user community. This can help to ensure the previous lessons are learnt and adequate capability and resources in the HA are determined for the pilot.
Literature research would determine applications of an innovation elsewhere. The review would collate the experience and lessons learnt from previous implementations of the innovation globally and consider its potential impacts on the Highways Agency network, the surrounding environment and the broader community. An example of a typical literature review for an HA pilot is the Literature Review of HOV Lane Schemes produced by TRL [TRL 2005A]
The review should be carried out using both internal HA and external sources. The HA Research Compendium[HA 2006C] provides a summary of current and historic research undertaken in the Agency. If the innovation involves the use of technology ITS Radar [HA 2005A] can be used to provide intelligence on ITS products and initiatives. This summarises key information for decision makers and practitioners alike, regarding innovative pilot projects worldwide and emerging ITS technologies. ITS innovations are scored according to pre-defined criteria including relevance to the HA. ITS Radar considers technologies deployed in other areas and looks at their applicability to the world of transport.
When undertaking this review it is important to recognise that results from overseas may not be directly applicable to the UK because of different driver behaviour and environment. Experience from previous schemes has also shown that the level of monitoring typically undertaken to establish impacts is less complete than those generally for a UK scheme. When using such information in feasibility studies it is worth trying to establish the level of monitoring and evaluation undertaken. Similarly, practitioners should be careful in using information in product sales literature unless information is supported by qualitative studies.
Through this stage consideration should also be given to other existing alternatives to solve the same problem or improve an existing situation. The advantages of the possible alternative innovations would be considered at this stage and outline comparison made to identify the unique selling points of the specific pilot.
An impact assessment
The anticipated impacts of the scheme need to be identified and quantified. This will include not only the positive aspects of an innovation but also any potential dis-benefits and costs. Where there is no previous experience related to the innovation models may be used to provide an indication of likely benefits.
The Project Appraisal Report (PAR) [HA 2006J] and the associated DfT’s WebTAG [DfT (2006B)] provides a framework to be used during the feasibility stage. PAR is used to appraise all HA improvement projects not in the targeted Programme of Improvements. It is the key summary document in which the need for the project, its costs and benefits (including those that cannot be quantified in money terms) are brought together to aid the decision maker in judging the worth and priority of the project. The document allows the benefits to be assessed against all of the Government's five objectives for transport (environment, safety, economy, accessibility and integration).
Potential cost and benefits
It is important to establish the likely costs for implementing a pilot and the potential wider roll-out of the innovation. Where possible, costs should be established from a variety of alternative sources.
The costs and benefits information is used to establish the overall business case for the pilot to demonstrate that in principle it meets the Agency’s business needs, it is affordable and achievable and having considered a range of options it is likely to provide value for money. The OGC Resource Toolkit [OGC 2006B] provides guidance on the preparation and areas for inclusion within the business case.
For a pilot it is important to consider the likely monitoring requirements and their associated costs. In some cases the costs of assessment may be much higher than the cost of implementing an innovation, however this may be justified by the potential benefits should the pilot progress through to a broader roll out on the Agency’s network. The Transport Analysis Guidance Website - WebTAG [DfT 2006A] provides guidance on the appraisal of transport projects and wider advice on scoping and carrying out transport studies.
Potential pilot sites
A particular issue for pilots is where it is likely to take place. This can range from enclosed private testing facilities to a major section of the Agency’s network depending upon the scale of the pilot. As part of the feasibility study it is advantageous if the outline criteria for the selection of potential pilot sites for application of the innovation can be identified. When identifying the pilot location experience from previous pilots has illustrated the importance of establishing what other activities are planned that could impact upon pilot delivery and monitoring over the longer term.
In identifying pilot sites it is worth considering the level of key stakeholder engagement since this can have a significant impact upon the success of a pilot. Additionally it is worth considering the physical location, e.g. Sites of Special Scientific Interest etc. and the potential need for an Environmental Impact Assessment.