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Gantries: the next generation

The Highways Agency is committed to encouraging and developing innovative ideas in all areas of its work. We are responsible for maintaining, managing and improving 6,600 miles of trunk roads and motorways in England. Research into developing innovation is an important element of this responsibility.

As part of this innovation drive the Highways Agency has just introduced a new gantry design standard, BD 51/98. This aims to encourage designers to develop gantries that are less environmentally obtrusive, reduce the amount of information drivers have to take in and are cheaper to install. The previous standard produced technically excellent gantry designs, however they carried too much information for drivers to take in, and were very expensive to install. Earlier this year, we invited four multi-discipline design teams to submit as many new gantry designs as they wished based on the new standard. We chose architects, product designers, lighting experts and engineers to work together on this project to look at all and any ideas which could be implemented within a few years as well as 'blue sky' ideas.

The designers were asked to particularly look at avoiding traffic delays which might have been caused by the installation of the gantries themselves, especially their foundations. We do not want to delay traffic today in the desire to avoid traffic delay in the future. We wanted the designs to be as innovative as possible. As expected all the submissions were excellent. Many of the ideas will be further developed by the Highways Agency and we will be looking to involve both the design teams and contractors to share in this development.

Innovative gantry designs are also an important part of the Highways Agency's developing role in providing more information for motorists, developing more controlled motorways such as the successful M25 Controlled Motorway Pilot Scheme and integrating the road network with other means of transport.

Earlier this year the Highways Agency organised the first ever Transport Operators Forum which brought together the rail, bus, coach, waterway and airport transport operators. At the event Roads Minister Baroness Hayman launched the Highways Agency's 'Tookit' of ideas and techniques for making the best use of the motorway and trunk road network and integrating it with other transport modes.

These events, together with the Gantry Design Ideas Search are practical and positive elements of our commitment to innovative thinking. We are now 'thinking the unthinkable' in considering how to solve the traffic issues we all face. The gantry designs produced by the four teams are an exciting move in this direction. The Highways Agency accepts the assessors' conclusions and is looking forward to developing many of these ideas for possible use on England's motorway network.

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