Highways England releases first updated sections of its road design manual

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Highways England (HE) has paved the way for improved road building with the much-anticipated release of its first suite of new design standards that will be applied across the country’s motorways and major A roads.

The publication of the first sections of the new Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB) will ensure roads are designed, built and maintained to the very highest and safest standards. Accepted as the cornerstone of the delivery and management of motorway and all-purpose trunk roads across the UK, and a respected document worldwide, the DMRB was first published in 1992.

HE is currently updating it to make it clearer, more consistent, and easier to understand and implement across the motorways and major A roads that comprise the country’s Strategic Road Network (SRN).

The update puts design requirements at its core and it will also make it easier to incorporate developments in design best practice. This will result in greater efficiency and innovation throughout the lifecycle of the assets, fewer departures from the requirements, and reduced time and associated cost.

The DMRB re-drafting is being completed using a revolutionary online authoring tool purposefully built for the refreshment of the document. HE says this signals an important move to digital technology and unlocks the potential of digital innovations.

The first four documents of the updated DMRB are:

• Introduction to the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges;

• Requirements for safety risk assessment;

• Use of Compressive Membrane Action in Bridge Decks;

• Management of Corrugated Steel Buried Structures.

Experts at HE began the task of updating the complete suite of over 350 documents and associated interim advice notes (IANs) that make up the manual in April 2017, with the review due for completion by March 2020.

Changes in the updated document include:

• A new structure of the volumes to be aligned to asset lifecycle stages, from appraisal to design up to disposal;

• New numbering systems of documents reflecting the relevant asset lifecycle stage and the specific discipline covered by the document;

• New style of individual clauses to make a clear distinction between requirements and advisory material;

• Incorporation of interim advice notes (IANs) into the DMRB as relevant;

• Consolidation of DMRB ‘A’ (advisory) documents with related ‘D’ (design) documents;

• Introduction of National Application Annexes attached to the DMRB to cover the specific requirements of the Overseeing Organizations.

Several leading UK consultants have supported HE with the update, and a new set of drafting rules has been used, which follows best practice from national and international standardization organizations.

“This is an exciting time for the highways sector as we continue to successfully deliver the record £15bn investment in roads. The updated DMRB documents mark a historic moment for the design of the UK’s motorways and major A-roads,” noted HE’s chief highway engineer, Mike Wilson (above).

“I would like to thank the Devolved Administrations and our supply chain who have supported this significant review, which will ensure our roads are designed, built and maintained to the very highest, safest standards for the millions of drivers that use these roads every day.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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