Transport User Voice – January – Tunnels: what do road users want?

21 December 2018

New research suggests a need for clearer signage and rules

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. These were the conclusions of Tunnel vision: road users’ experiences and expectations of tunnels, a new research report published by Transport Focus with Highways England in early December, which details how road users experience tunnels and what they want from future designs.

Tunnels are topical partly because improvements to the A303 at Stonehenge, the new Lower Thames Crossing and a potential new route across the Pennines are all likely to include tunnels. Indeed, if the Sheffield to Manchester proposal is taken forward, it will potentially involve a tunnel that is much longer than any currently experienced in the United Kingdom, so it is vital that road users have their say on how tunnels are designed and run.

Driving through tunnels is not a regular experience for many drivers but our research confirms that road users (whether as a driver, passenger, in a car, lorry or on a motorcycle) expect it to be intuitive. It also suggests Highways England must ensure that existing tunnels are maintained to high standards (including road surfaces, lighting and cleanliness) and must remove confusion about speed limits, overtaking, and what to do if you break down.

From this research, 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.

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