Highways England launches a set of design principles for future road schemes


Highways England (HE) has launched a set of design principles that will inform the planning of all future road schemes, with the intention that they will ensure that roads in the agency’s network better serve the people who use them, and the environments through which they pass.

The agency says 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. Responsible for England’s motorways and main A roads, HE has also announced the launch of a new body, comprising experts across the industry, to provide support to designers on major projects. Early reviews include the Lower Thames Crossing and the A303 Stonehenge improvements.

Following the recommendations of HE’s Strategic Design Panel, the 10 principles are that good road design:

• Makes roads safe and useful;

• Makes roads understandable;

• Fits in context;

• Is inclusive;

• Is restrained;

• Is environmentally sustainable;

• Is thorough;

• Is innovative;

• Is collaborative;

• Is long-lasting.

The new principles will underpin the updated ‘Design Manual for Roads and Bridges’, which was first published in 1992 and is the standard for the design, maintenance and operation of the strategic road network and is widely used for other roads in the UK and across the globe. The new manual will be rolled out in phases and is expected to be complete by March 2020.

The Design Panel was set up to support the development of a culture where good design is at the heart of everything within HE and the wider road sector, with a focus on strategic input rather than scheme specific details, targeting where its expertise, insight and guidance will have most positive impact and wider benefit, such as standards, procurement and evaluation.

Examples of previous good design include: the use of traditional dry stone to reinforce the A590’s connection to the Cumbrian landscape; the A3 Hindhead tunnel bypass; and the inclusion of a ‘green bridge’ on the A556 in Cheshire.

“We need to make sure that Highways England and the industry think in the right way when it comes to good design,” explained HE’s chief highways engineer, Mike Wilson. “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.”

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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).