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Strong public support for trio of highways tunnels

3133517 lower thames crossing cgi

Highways England has revealed what it wants from a trio of upcoming tunnel projects, including the trans-Pennine tunnel, the Lower Thames Crossing and the A303 Stonehenge tunnel.

Unveiled at New Civil Engineer’s Tunnelling Festival, Transport Focus and Highways England have created new guidelines on how tunnels must be built and subsequently run.

The research also showed strong support for all three schemes.

It states: “The road users we spoke to did not raise any concerns about proposed new tunnels (including trans-Pennine, Lower Thames and the A303 at Stonehenge) being potentially much longer than current tunnels. The time savings, increased road capacity and expected improvements to journey reliability were seen to outweigh any concerns.

“Even where time savings made by using tunnels appear to be relatively modest, road users tell us that this alone is enough to persuade them to use the tunnel. The main exception is road users who have more time (for example, those on holiday) where exploring an area of natural beauty may attract them to a non-tunnel alternative.”

Recommendations include:

  • Ensures new tunnels are designed, built and run with road users in mind
  • Ensures the specific needs of disabled road users are met when using existing and new tunnels, including providing wheelchair-friendly emergency escape routes
  • Provides timely, accurate information about estimated travel time to allow road users to plan rest stops – particularly important for lorry drivers
  • Ensures its tunnels are intuitive to use and that specific ‘rules’ about speed and overtaking are clear
  • Increases awareness of what to do if you break down or there is an emergency
  • Learns from experiences in other countries about how to avoid monotony and boredom in longer tunnels.

Transport Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said: “The A303 at Stonehenge, the Lower Thames Crossing and a potential new route across the Pennines are all likely to include tunnels, so it’s vital that road users have their say on how they are designed and run.

“Road users expect driving in tunnels to be intuitive. Highways England must do more to remove confusion about speed limits, overtaking, and what to do if you break down.

“Highways England should also ensure that its existing tunnels are maintained to high standards, including road surfaces, lighting and cleanliness.”

Highways England chief highways engineer Mike Wilson said: “We know that driving through tunnels is not a regular experience for many drivers and we want to ensure they are safe and feel safe.

“With new tunnels coming up in our future programme it’s important for us to better understand road users’ experiences and expectations.

“This report gives us that valuable insight, and, combined with the best international practice we already use, will help guide the design of these tunnels.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • It sounds like Highways England only surveyed drivers, but someone is now trying to spin this as 'strong public support'. Surveying the wider public might give a more balanced picture, where the damage to world heritage sites and the natural environment, is weighed against the journey-time benefits.

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