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Highways England pushes for better road design

Traffic congestion roads 3x2

Highways England is renewing its focus on good road design with the launch of a set of new good design principles.

The 10 principles are based on recommendations made by an independent strategic design panel set up in 2015. Consideration of the principles will be mandatory across all road schemes on Highways England’s strategic network.

At the launch, Highways England chief highways engineer Mike Wilson said the publication of the principles was a renewal of the emphasis on “good” design on road projects and provided the tools and support to designers to do so.

He said good design should focus on improvements which are long lasting, sensitive to their surroundings, enhance quality of life and provide the “right balance of aesthetics, function and technological considerations”.

“Those elements are key to the application of good design,” he said. “If they are at the heart of the project, not a bolt on at the end, projects should not be more expensive and in whole life cost terms they should cost less.”

A good design example he said would be the wind deflectors on the Second Severn Crossing, which allow the bridge to remain open during high winds when other crossings have to close. He used clutter on the network as an example of where he would like the principles to improve road design.

“I look at all roads and say from a construction point of view that all roads could be better. Some of the things which sometimes frustrate me are around clutter and signs,” said Wilson. “From a road users point of view, are we providing clear direction to people, could we have simplified the signs, could we have reduced the number of signs then you reduce the cost, the maintenance.

“It’s not individual schemes perhaps, but individual things that if we really thought about this hard at an earlier stage of the project could it have been better? We need to learn from the past to deliver better schemes going forward.”

It is hoped the new measures will also help to smooth the approvals process for more sensitive schemes such as the A303 Stonehenge Tunnel in the south-west and the Lower Thames Crossing in the south-east.

In practice, a recently established design review panel will comment on whether or not it thinks individual projects have produced “good” designs and make any further recommendations. This will then report back to the strategic design panel, Highways England and the project teams. Ultimately, however, the decision to adopt the ideas will rest with Highways England.

The 10 principles will be incorporated into the updated design manual for roads and bridges which will be rolled out in phases and completed by March 2020.

The 10 principles at a glance

Good road design:

  1. Makes roads safe and useful
  2. Is inclusive
  3. Makes roads understandable
  4. Fits in context
  5. Is restrained
  6. Is environmentally sustainable
  7. Is thorough
  8. Is innovative
  9. Is collaborative
  10. Is long lasting



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