MT 95/540

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Overhead gantry signs: policy

Date range1960-1971
LocationNational Archives (see all files stored here)
CatalogueSee entry
File baseSeries MT, subseries MT 95

Thumbs up.png This file is truly delightful.
It is likely to bring a smile to your face, probably because it contains the sort of thing that makes trawling through dusty archive documents worthwhile. The thing in this file that makes your day might actually have nothing to do with its subject matter.


A general file, as its title might suggest, on an era when overhead gantry signs on motorways were a rare sight and designs for them were still being developed. The Anderson Report, which had first set out designs for motorway signs, had provided some gantry sign layouts but it became clear quite quickly that they failed to provide for some of the most common situations. New guidance was needed.

In amongst a great deal of material discussing the development of a standard design for overhead gantry structures and whether they ought to be lit at night, there is some interesting discussion of early problems encountered with the design of gantry signage and an in-depth case study in the form of perhaps the first free-standing motorway gantry, that being the one approaching the diverge between M1 and M10 at Beechtrees near St Albans.

The real gem is the white envelope full of gantry sign photographs at the back of the file.

Contents of note

  • Correspondence regarding gantry signs on the M5 and M6 Midland Links viaducts when they were first opened, which appears to have taken almost the same form for all junctions and was causing terrible confusion because it did not clearly enough indicate whether the junction involved a lane drop. There are reports of much last-minute evasive action on the part of drivers where lane drops were present, and unnecessary lane-changing around junctions where they weren't.
  • A report, with diagrams, which introduces more or less the designs for gantry signs that now appear in TSRGD.
  • Correspondence about the design and erection of a gantry sign at the M1/M10 junction, following reports of driver confusion approaching the fork.
  • Set of signage plans for the M6 from junction 8 to junction 10, which indicates that it was originally intended that gantries would simply have landscape-oriented fork signs on them rather than overhead gantry type signage. These also show that signs for junction 10 were to have a patch on them, to be revealed to read "Bilston", presumably on the opening of the proposed Bilston Link Motorway.
  • Engineering diagrams of gantries erected on the Coventry Ring Road (which are still there to this day), including the unusual overhanging section across the opposite carriageway to carry signage on the rear.
  • Photographs of gantry signs on the Mancunian Way prior to the imposition of motorway restrictions, and of the M1/M10 gantry shortly after it was erected, showing early 1960s traffic management and temporary panels that covered "M1" and added an arrow to direct "Watford" traffic up the M10.

Links to other files

MT 118/340 Motorway sign and sign/signal gantries: standard design (1968-1974)
MT 126/47 Urban motorways: provision of local direct signs; policy (1967-1974)

People with camera copies

Chris Marshall has a partial copy, and digital scans of some photographs.