National Highways thinks more full road closures will improve efficiency

National Highways is changing how it approaches roadworks, with more full road closures being favoured over partial closures to have work done quicker.

UK Roadworks. - National Highways/

The UK government has announced a new approach by National Highways to roadworks which will seek to get major works done more efficiently and with less disruption to road users. 

It is unfortunately more common to have your time riding on Britain’s roads and motorways disrupted by roadworks than otherwise, but that is something National Highways is looking to change with a new approach. 

“National Highways is developing a series of measures to reduce the impact of billions of pounds worth of vital work being carried out on the Strategic Road Network,” says National Highways in a press release.

Where it is considered safe to do so, speed limits will be higher past roadworks (Highest safe Speed will be raised to 60mph, rather than 50mph), for example, while messaging to road users will be clearer, the roadside will be cleaned up and decluttered, and the diversion routes will be “more effective,” the National Highways press release says.

Furthermore, National Highways will look at full road closures if doing so would lead to a decrease in the total time it would take to complete the works compared to partial closures. The idea with this is to avoid months or years of partial road closures. 

“The approach is designed to save taxpayer money and minimise the impact on local communities and drivers [and riders, of course] caused by major projects,” National Highways says. 

It is safe to say that saving taxpayer money is something we can all get behind, but at the same time many things miss their design purpose when they meet reality.

Already, though, National Highways says its new approach is “being employed in a limited number of schemes.” 

These include a bridge for the HS2 railway that will go over the M42. National Highways says the construction “is being carried out through two closures of the busy motorway over consecutive Christmas periods in 2021 and 2022 when traffic is lightest. This is an alternative to 18 months of lane closures, narrow lanes and speed restrictions along with more than 100 overnight closures.”

There are also plans being developed for the completion of improvement works on the A47/A11 junction outside Norwich which will make use one nine-day full closure and a small number of overnight closures. National Highways says this is instead of “almost three years of lane closures, contraflows and 30mph speed limits.”

National Highways also says that full road closures would ordinarily last for no more than two weeks, and that they will remain the exception, which it says is “in recognition of the potential short-term impact on local communities and businesses.”

“Logistics operators are the lifeblood of the UK economy and to support industry effectively, need to provide efficient, timely deliveries,” said Kate Jennings, Policy Director at Logistics UK. “Network disruptions impact their ability to deliver the best service to their customers, so Logistics UK welcomes today’s announcement.

Reducing the overall time spent working on the network to complete a scheme, supported by an improved approach to diversions and roadside communications, should result in a better experience for both drivers and operators.”

Lead image courtesy of National Highways.

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