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Driving home for Christmas

18 December 2017

As we head towards the festive period, transport will once again play a crucial role for people up and down the country. With this being the traditional time for engineering works on rail, it falls to our motorways and major ‘A’ roads to take the strain of people getting from A to B. Keeping freight on the move is important to keep our shops well stocked and for us to receive those all-important online deliveries.

A welcome announcement then from Highways England that 99 per cent of its road network will be free of roadworks, with many schemes being completed in time or suspended. The roadworks embargo from 22 December to 2 January will make roads clearer to navigate at this crucial time. However on some of the bigger schemes, while the work is indeed suspended, the traffic management restrictions need to stay in place over this period. We’ve been told that there are a number of reasons for this, including vital safety issues and sometimes the sheer cost and time it takes to change things back for a short period.

A good example of this is on the M5 at Oldbury in the Midlands. We’ve been out there a number of times to look at this major £100 million project. Our most recent visit revealed good progress on this complex scheme, but as we head towards Christmas we asked the team about their plans for the roadworks embargo. To return this section of road to normal would take several weeks and costs a fortune. However the bigger issues are bridge barriers that have been removed and other key safety features that we all rely on when using fast, free-flowing roads such as this one. It’s right and proper that our safety is the main consideration for Highways England and so the decision to keep temporary barriers, lane restrictions and lower speed limits are designed to ensure we all get home safely at night.

However, we’re not all road engineers and understanding why some of this stuff stays in place can be frustrating for users. We want Highways England to provide better, more helpful communication with road users. This year provides a good opportunity to consider what information can be provided directly to users at the roadside, so that they know that the road restrictions are for their benefit.

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