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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

On the road to good design

National Highways has been challenged to prioritise high-quality and sustainable design as it delivers the biggest investment in the strategic road network for a generation.

The government-owned company has been urged to ensure upgrades to motorways and major A-roads are sympathetic to their local surroundings while also prioritising safety, reliability and affordability.

National Highways’ first design vision, ‘The road to good design’, was published in 2018 using advice from the company’s Strategic Design Panel – an expert group.

Today National Highways has published follow-up guidance, ‘People, places and processes: A guide to good design at National Highways’.

This publication highlights a series of integrated principles to improve the design quality of the network. In addition to ensuring that designs reflect road users’ needs, it includes a focus on "place", ensuring that design is restrained, environmentally sustainable and fits its surroundings. Good design is also collaborative, thorough and innovative to generate long-lasting benefits to users and the wider community, it says.

Addressing climate change is a thread which runs thought all design principles referenced in this publication. Good road design can help both minimise greenhouse gas emissions and their impact on the climate and adapt to the actual or anticipated impacts of climate change to ensure future resilience, the guide says.

The guide makes dozens of tangible suggestions to project teams working on upgrades of the country’s busiest roads.

Among the recommendations, it says:

  • Roads can help "improve legibility" with clues as to how to drive and what to expect ahead, adding that views of built-up areas, landmark buildings and structures and distinctive natural features can help drivers locate themselves, reducing reliance on directional signs;

  • Roadside “clutter” can be detrimental to the character of the environment and the safety of users. Over-provision of signage can result in information overload and should be designed out at an early stage.

  • Teams should consider the view from the road to help enhance the “physical sensation of travel”, adding that “monotonous tunnel-like corridors with no varied views or interest should be avoided as they may increase driver fatigue”;

  • Good road design should seek to reduce potential noise in the local area, with earth mounds and the choice of road surfaces being considered alongside changes in horizontal and vertical alignment;

  • The severance of natural systems should be avoided, especially when crossing waterways to protect animal and plant life, adding that this can be achieved through crossing points or “green bridges” that fit with natural patterns and feature local native planting;

  • Historic buildings and landscapes should be incorporated into designs, with access to sites being considered at an early stage.

  • Boundaries by the side of roads should respond to the local character of an area, with opportunities taken to incorporate walking and cycling paths and to plant local native vegetation.


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