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Tunnels – what do road users want?

New road tunnels must be designed, built and run with the road user in mind. Signage and ‘rules’ in tunnels must also be made clearer.

Transport Focus, working with Highways England, has published new research into how road users experience tunnels and what they want from future designs.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said:

“The A303 at Stonehenge, the Lower Thames Crossing and a potential new route across the Pennines are all likely to include tunnels, so it’s vital that road users have their say on how they are designed and run.

“Road users expect driving in tunnels to be intuitive. Highways England must do more to remove confusion about speed limits, overtaking, and what to do if you break down.

“Highways England should also ensure that its existing tunnels are maintained to high standards, including road surfaces, lighting and cleanliness.”

Mike Wilson, Executive Director and Chief Highway Engineer, Highways England, said:

“We know that driving through tunnels is not a regular experience for many drivers and we want to ensure they are safe and feel safe.

“With new tunnels coming up in our future programme it’s important for us to better understand road users’ experiences and expectations.

“This report gives us that valuable insight, and, combined with the best international practice we already use, will help guide the design of these tunnels.”

Transport Focus recommends that Highways England:

  • ensures new tunnels are designed, built and run with road users in mind
  • ensures the specific needs of disabled road users are met when using existing and new tunnels, including providing wheelchair-friendly emergency escape routes
  • provides timely, accurate information about estimated travel time to allow road users to plan rest stops – particularly important for lorry drivers
  • ensures its tunnels are intuitive to use and that specific ‘rules’ about speed and overtaking are clear
  • increases awareness of what to do if you break down or there is an emergency
  • learns from experiences in other countries about how to avoid monotony and boredom in longer tunnels.


Notes for editors

Tunnel vision: road users’ experiences and expectations of tunnels, a joint project between Transport Focus and Highways England, is published at New Civil Engineer’s Tunnelling Festival.

Guy Dangerfield, Transport Focus head of strategy and Nicola Debnam, Highways England asset development director will present the key findings and recommendations from the research at the conference at 14:10 – 14:50 6 December 2018.

For further information please contact:
Kieran Watkins, telephone: 0300 123 0836 or email: kieran.watkins@transportfocus.org.uk

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