Tunnel Vision: New research highlights road users' concerns

Dominic Browne

As Highways England prepares for several major tunnelling projects, it has teamed up with watchdog Transport Focus for some timely insight into road user concerns around these key assets.

Proposed new tunnels at A303 Stonehenge and the Lower Thames Crossing will double the length of tunnels on Highways England’s Strategic Road Network.

A computer generated image of the proposed tunnel for the A303 at Stonehenge

Using qualitative research conducted with road users, as well as a literature review, Transport Focus recommended that Highways England keep the following issues in mind:

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

This research suggested that road users anticipate changes to the ‘rules of the road’ when driving through tunnels, but they are unsure what these are. Specifically, the areas of confusion tend to be:

  • speed limits
  • changing lanes
  • overtaking
  • how large a gap to leave between the vehicle in front
  • whether to use lights, and which lights to use
  • what to do in an emergency
  • what to do if their vehicle breaks down
  • ability to stop and rest in a tunnel (especially a longer one).

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: '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.'

Mike Wilson, executive director ans chief highway engineer at Highways England, said: 'Tunnels are rare structures that are not, for many drivers, a regular experience. Safety systems are a particular characteristic of tunnels and it is important that we understand our customers’ perspectives on safety and tunnel environments. This report contributes to that understanding.

'We are drawing on the best international engineering and human factors expertise when reviewing our standards and educating drivers around the safe use of tunnels – and we will incorporate these useful recommendations into that body of work.'

Highways jobs

Definitive Map Manager

Cambridgeshire County Council
£32,825 - £35,401
This role is based within the Highways Service at Cambridgeshire County Council and provides an unusual and... Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Bridge Park Operations Manager

Brent Council
£38,799 - £41,706 p.a. inc.
This is an exciting opportunity to play a key role in managing the operations and contributing towards the... Brentford (City/Town), London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Assistant Engineer

Cambridgeshire County Council
£21,074 - £30,756
A great opportunity for someone looking to start or develop a career in Highways Engineering including the... Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Head of Strategic Transport

Cheshire East Council
£64,000 - £75,000 + benefits
We’re committed to “working for a brighter future together” – and we expect you to be too! Cheshire
Recuriter: Cheshire East Council

Regeneration Manager

Mole Valley District Council
£52,895 - £57,143 FTE
This is a great career opportunity to specialise in town centre regeneration and repositioning. Dorking, Surrey
Recuriter: Mole Valley District Council

Technical Services Officer (Mechanical)

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£36,876 - £38,813
This is an exciting and challenging time for Kirklees and we want to expand our team to manage and deliver construction... Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Road and Footway Asset Engineer

Kent County Council
£28,925 per annum
An exciting opportunity has arisen to join the Road and Footway Asset Team as an Asset Engineer. Kent
Recuriter: Kent County Council

Head of Waste

Lincolnshire County Council
£65,651 - £70,725
As Head of Waste, you will be commercially focussed and forward-thinking. Lincolnshire
Recuriter: Lincolnshire County Council

Assistant Director

Reading Borough Council
Up to £92k
It’s the ideal time to take the lead on our modernisation agenda, and deliver growth in the trading of our front line services. Reading, Berkshire
Recuriter: Reading Borough Council

Assistant Director – Highways

Lincolnshire County Council
£82,264 - £107,878
Come and lead the future agenda for our highways services. Lincolnshire
Recuriter: Lincolnshire County Council

County Highways Manager

Lincolnshire County Council
£55,503 - £60,578
Seeking a highly motivated leader and an excellent communicator, who has a proven ability to build relationships and trust, leading by example. Lincolnshire
Recuriter: Lincolnshire County Council

Local Highways Manager (East) - Lincolnshire County Council

Lincolnshire County Council
G12 £43,662 - £50,430
Seeking someone who combines excellent technical knowledge with a dedication to the customer. Lincolnshire
Recuriter: Lincolnshire County Council

Download your Highways App

Google App Apple App

Highways on Fridays

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue

Latest Issue

The ALARM survey 2019

Game over for flyovers?

Traffex, Parkex and Cold Comfort Scotland previews

View the latest issue

Latest Video