Highways England provides improved information with M55 ‘pictogram’ signs upgrade


Drivers using the M55 motorway in Lancashire in the UK are to get better warnings about congestion, incidents and bad weather, after a £450,000 (US$569,630) Highways England (HE) project was completed in less than a week.

Five of the latest electronic variable message signs (VMS), which can display pictorial as well as text messages, have been installed along the eastern end of the motorway between junction 1 at Broughton and the interchange with junction 32 of the M6.

The new signs will allow HE traffic officers at the North West Regional Control Center at Newton-le-Willows, and colleagues at the National Traffic Operation Center in Birmingham, to give clearer information, with the internationally-recognized symbols helping to warn drivers of dangers ahead, including accidents, congestion, snow and ice, high winds or an increased skid risk.

The new signs were fastened to four existing overhead gantries along the eastbound carriageway during three nights of work. New software has also been installed to allow the pictogram messages to be used, as well as diagnose faults and allow equipment re-sets remotely, thereby reducing maintenance visits and disruption to drivers’ journeys. The signs will operate traditionally, using only text messaging, until the spring when a programmed national software update will take place, allowing pictograms to be used as well.

HE’s project manager, Phil Tyrrell, said, “This is the first time drivers using the M55 will be able to benefit from these ‘pictogram’ signs which we’ve delivered as a replacement for older and now life-expired signs. Installing them in existing locations has meant we’ve been able to complete the work pretty quickly overnight with as little disruption to drivers’ journeys as possible.”

HE has also announced that it will complete or lift 448 miles (721km) of roadworks at 188 projects, leaving 98% of its 9,534-mile (15,344km) network free of work zones in time for the Christmas getaway. The agency is completing 407 miles (655km) and suspending 41 miles (66km) of roadworks from December 23 until January 3 to help people get away with as little disruption as possible. The news comes as an online poll shows that 50% of drivers will be travelling more than 50 miles (80km) to visit friends and relatives over the holiday period.

Key schemes that are being completed in time for Christmas include:

• the £191m (US$242m) improvement scheme at junction 19 of the M1;

• work to upgrade 5.4 miles (8.7km) of the M1 between junction 34 and junction 35a;

• the Chain Bar junction where the M62 meets the M606 has been upgraded with an additional lane;

• the M25 £100m (US$161m) junction upgrade where the motorway meets the A13.

HE operations director Nick Harris said, “This Christmas, we’re helping drivers with their journeys by clearing roadworks on most of our motorways and major A-roads. Our traffic officers will also be on patrol working to clear any incidents; the vast majority of which will be dealt with in under an hour. By suspending or completing roadworks, more lanes will be open and many speed restrictions will be lifted.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).