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Doing more for less with high-accuracy location intelligence with Surrey County Council


With government cuts showing no sign of abating, local authorities are having to use resources extremely wisely. The last decade has had a major impact on the way in which local authorities have been operating, with pressure to do more with less and work more innovatively being two constant themes.

A recent successful deployment of geospatial technology by MGISS in partnership with Surrey County Council, has delivered massive productivity gains and resource efficiencies. Together, we have been able to  save operational costs and meet the needs of the government agenda for doing more with less.

  Surrey highways drive to modernise working practices   In 2018, the Surrey County Council were referred to MGISS to determine a suitable solution to capture highway boundaries. Another goal was to modernise working practices with a more cost-effective, robust and straight-forward-to-use technology than what they previously had.

The Highways Information Team (HIT), part of Surrey County Council, collect, store and provide information relating to the public highway network in Surrey.  They are currently undertaking a project to capture the legal extent of the highway network as a GIS polygon layer. Over 5400km of highway need to be captured and maintained. Previously, 4600km had been captured using legal records, existing research and traditional surveying methods (e.g., as tape and measuring wheel).

The outstanding 850km of highways that needed to be captured consisted predominantly of rural roads that require accurate surveying in order to define the legal limit of highway. Using their corporate Esri ArcGIS platform as the primary business system, the team sought an ArcGIS-compatible solution that would assist with accelerating project completion. Their key considerations in selecting the solution included maintaining accuracy and quality.  At the same time, optimising field operational staff was important.  GPS technology was identified as a potentially suitable surveying tool; however, the HIT were keen to explore the use of their existing Esri platform as a shareable resource — and determine whether GPS integration was possible.


Traditional methods not measuring up Surrey County Council previously surveyed highway boundaries with a team of two, using a tape measure and paper map to plot and check the boundary.  Additional validation and checking would occur back in office to ensure a level of accuracy was applied.

In total, a 10-step process was required to capture important site highway information as follows:

In the office
  • Plan the section and print large scale plots to capture survey measurements and notes
  • Schedule a time convenient for 2 staff
On site
  • Locate a mapped start and end point as per OS 1:1250 mapping
  • Measure 5, 10, 20 metre intervals with a measuring wheel
  • At each interval record the distance of the feature marking the limit of highway (toe of bank, front edge of ditch, fence, centre of hedge etc..) using a measuring tape
  • Record distance
  • Repeat for length of road to be surveyed
In the office
  • Recreate survey drawings using mark-up dataset in GIS
  • Capture highway limits
  • Commit to database


MGISS and Surrey County Council agreed to work together to understand the existing process in detail, and determine the most cost-effective solution to replace it. MGISS provided the council with an independent assessment of options within the geospatial market place.   It was quickly determined that the existing Esri GIS platform could be utilised, and a trial was arranged to compare traditional and proposed workflows.  An Arrow Gold GNSS receiver made by Canadian GNSS manufacturer Eos Positioning Systems, and sold exclusively by MGISS, was chosen as the desired GNSS receiver.

On delivery of the Arrow Gold we had an on-boarding day (system setup and customised training) with MGISS.,” said George Emmett, Highway Boundary Team Leader. The solution was easy to use following a few start-up steps.”

Next, MGISS customised Esri Collector for ArcGIS® mobile data-collection app to create a suitable field workflow that could  be downloaded and used on any smartphone or tablet. “The supplied form in Collector allows us to capture a variety of features and attributes on the highway network,” Emmett said. “We are also able to add site photos with each mapped feature using our handheld device (in our case a rugged CAT S41 Android phone).”

Also integrated into these technologies was a high-accuracy correction service available to the Highways team across the whole county.

“The data is easily exported from Esri ArcGIS Online,” Emmett said. “We have also built comprehensive database structures, and with a live link to the online, synced survey data. This effectively enabling real-time viewing of the surveys as they happen.”

Following a hugely successful trial, Surrey Highways wanted to pursue a full project rollout. They requested that MGISS deliver:
  • Design, configuration and testing of Esri Collector forms
  • Onsite training to team members on how to capture data and use the Arrow Gold GNSS receiver in the field
  • An Arrow Gold GNSS system plus lightweight and wearable accessories, which could be used to survey assets in the field easily
  • Ongoing service and lifecycle support
The result provided additional  benefits that the council had not anticipated, such as productivity tracking and ensuring no site revisits were required. This created additional, significant carbon emissions.


Results that truly measure up Results that truly measure up The solution provided by MGISS has drastically project completion time. In the past, the highways team had estimated it would take three years to complete the project. This was based on surveying both sides of 1km of highway with a 10m measurement interval, taking a total survey time of approximately 1100 days or three years. With the new solution, they expect to reduce their 3-year estimate to just six months!

In addition, the time it takes to process data collected in the field is zero, thanks to the real-time capabilities of the solution deployed by MGISS.

Overall, what used to take two men one week to do is now completed in a single day!

“We are very happy with the solution provided by MGISS,” Emmett said. “To date, we have been using the equipment on a case-by-case basis, and the data recorded has been invaluable in proving the limit of highway.” Unanticipated value delivered   In addition to this significant return on investment, the highways team have identified a number of added benefits both now and in the future such as these:
  • Ability to undertake surveys individually where appropriate (lone-working)
  • Assist with complicated boundary issues
  • Survey assets/insurance claim locations with excellent accuracy for Council colleagues
  • Identify mapping inconsistencies as part of explaining mapped physical features
“The accuracy achieved in the field has been consistently high,” Emmett said. “Teams across Surrey Highways have now expressed a great deal of interest in the solution, and there are many possibilities for further use of the equipment in a number of applications.”