Highways England takes road design forward with scheme reviews


Highways England has launched an independent panel to review the design of new schemes and 10 ‘principles of good road design’, with a pledge to put people at the heart of the process of building roads.

The move puts into place the recommendations of the government-owned company’s Strategic Design Panel, which reported last Autumn, although it plans to put guidance on road design within the new Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB), rather than creating a freestanding ‘Good Roads Guide’, as the Panel appeared to recommend.

The company said that as well as connecting people and places, there should be renewed focus on improvements that are ‘long lasting, sensitive to their surroundings, and enhance the quality of life’.

It revealed that the new Design Review Panel, which is facilitated through the Design Council, has already carried out reviews of two of its major tunnel schemes – the £1.6bn project to build a tunnel at Stonehenge and the £4.4bn Lower Thames Crossing.

However, it stressed that it, rather than the panel, would have the final say over whether the recommendations of a review would be implemented.

Chief highways engineer Mike Wilson said: ‘We need to make sure that Highways England and the industry think in the right way when it comes to good design. The 10 principles of good road design are to help us achieve that and will underpin our major improvements going forward.

‘We want roads that not only connect the country and communities, but which achieve a higher quality of life; that are designed in a way that is sensitive to the surroundings; provide greater economic vitality and use resources in a more efficient and innovative way.’

The 10 principles of good road design follow almost word for word those set out in a report from the Strategic Design Panel in September. Based on the concepts of people, place and process, they are that good road design:

  • makes roads safe and useful

  • is inclusive

  • makes roads understandable

  • fits in context

  • is restrained

  • is environmentally sustainable

  • is thorough

  • is innovative

  • is collaborative

  • is long-lasting

The principles have been launched at the start of the Year of Engineering, a government campaign to get more young people to consider engineering as a career, ‘acknowledging that good engineering changes people’s lives’.

They will underpin the updated DMRB, which will be rolled out in phases and is expected to be complete by March 2020.

Mr Wilson told Highways: ‘These design principles will be in the front of that document and will be the guiding principles that will allow designers to take individual standards and ensure that those are being applied appropriately for that particular location, because there are always choices and the principles in the book will help designers to make those choices and find right balance between [design elements], and bring together all those elements into a good scheme.’

Highways England also released images (above) of a new ‘green bridge’ on the A556 Knutsford to Bowdon scheme which opened last year.


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