National Archives 2003-03-04

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Today is my first visit to the PRO. Didn’t begin auspiciously—trains were running between one to two hours behind and the 10.15 fast train to London Paddington left about half an hour late (even though it starts at Oxford and the delays were apparently due to problems north of Oxford) because the late trains were being flushed through the station. Also had to wait a very long time at Paddington for a District train going to Earl’s Court (could have taken Circle Line to Victoria and then backtracked to Earl’s Court via District Line, but was keen to avoid a second transfer and couldn’t count on a Richmond train stopping at Victoria when I wanted it). Went through the process of registration, seat issue, and document ordering. Discovered the no-bag rule very strictly enforced, with notebook computers required to be transported out of their cases. Had a minor panic when I missed the weight of my wallet in my pocket, ran about looking at all the places I had been the previous fifteen minutes, and finally found my wallet clenched in my right hand where I had put it fifteen minutes earlier so my reader’s ticket and seat number card would be handy. Files examined: MT 113/46 (part of the Anderson collection), MT 116/2 (part of the Worboys collection—Worboys working papers), and MT 95/496 (drafts of the Motorway Design Memorandum, including revisions suggested by consultants and county surveyors or floated by MOT, and correspondence pertaining thereto). PRO files appear to be very thick, so it is not worthwhile enumerating material individually in correspondence-rich files, but is perhaps so for Worboys working papers etc.

MT 116/2

This consists of working papers of the Worboys committee. Enumerated in top-to-bottom order (essentially reverse chronological order).

• 46—Working rules for the layout of map-type advance direction signs (superseding c’ttee document No. 24). Rules much as given in later memorandum on direction sign design; i.e., not current, but basically same as 1964-94. An important difference, however: stub arms were to be chamfered 60° except for the vertical one, which was to be the conventional 90°. There is a section 24 in brackets where design rules were to be developed for situations where a roundabout was not perfectly circular.

• 45—Traffic signs committee draft report: bollards and refuge indicator lamps. In its survey of continental practice, notes that Protocol keep-right etc. signs are affixed to the bollards and suggests that same be done in the UK, and also that the bottom part of the bollard should emit yellow light. Ground set for present-day bollard.

• 44—Traffic signs committee draft report: carriageway markings. Info. On volume warrants for certain markings not filled in. Suggestion that advisory “KEEP CLEAR” be retained. Recommendation that two-way catseyes be used for dual carriageways where counterflow working is likely to happen, but this was X’d out. Hatfield lines mentioned and approved for waiting restrictions.

• 43—correspondence between sec’y and Usborne regarding speed limit repeater signs.

• 42—traffic signs committee draft report: direction signs. The key point that road numbers and destination copy should appear in the same character heights had been accepted, but not that the road numbers should be yellow on green-background signs. 2” quantum in letter sizes. Suggestion that urban and major road signs receive independent illumination.

• 41—traffic signs committee draft report: waiting restrictions and parking signs. Accepts the principle of red rim, blue circle, which had been accepted in the urban clearways experiments (the experimental signs using Kinneir’s font as noted in Kindersley’s complaints in MT 113/46 and as shown in a contemporary MOT blurb about the clearways program).

• 40—carriageway markings: width of warning lines when carriageway is less than 20 feet. This deals with a proposal by the Scottish branch of the CSS to decrease the gaps in, and widen, the longitudinal lane marking to indicate narrowness of the road. Worboys c’ttee didn’t mention it in draft report and SODD, which had referred the issue to the c’ttee, wanted to know of its fate.

• 39—traffic signs c’ttee: paper by the working party on provision of light indications for pedestrians at signal-controlled junctions. This paper has some correspondence attached to it, much of which is concerned with the problem of letting pedestrians know when it is safe to cross without decreasing capacity by providing all-red time (to protect them from turning vehicles) or by giving them the misleading idea that it is safe to cross when vehicles could be turning across their path. Moore (head of RRL’s lighting and road user section) suggests that perhaps a signal could be devised which indicated to peds that parallel vehicle traffic had a green, but warned them that cars could be turning across their path. Moore also suggests some device that shows the ped indication to the ped at the angle he has to look to watch for coming traffic (this idea followed up in modern puffin crossings). C’ttee commissioned RRL research into omitting the red/amber phase: tried in Leicester, Wolverhampton, Northampton, Brighton, and Hove. There were complaints that now peds had no way of knowing the light was going to change. Moore dismissed that by saying that peds became more conservative, their job more difficult but not more hazardous. Very little existing standardization of ped xing signals internationally.

• 38—signposting of car parks reserved for customers of stores, cinemas, etc.—main question here is whether this is advertising.

• 37—this is UNECE material. Waiting and parking: note by the OTA Secretariat. Deals with definitions of waiting, parking, and stopping, and how to sign them.

• 36—traffic signs committee: note by the working party on the memorandum by Road Safety Division. The attached memorandum suggests (1) adoption of signs which give positive instruction, and (2) different shapes for signs requiring STOP (obviously prefigures octagonal STOP, ‘tho this rejected by Worboys c’ttee). “SLOW” too vague, “NARROW BRIDGE” and “ROAD NARROWS” ought to be consolidated because the driver response expected is the same. (Not quite true.)

• 35—exchange of correspondence between Jock Kinneir and TG Usborne, regarding the lorry symbol. Usborne encloses specs: “Following our conversation on the telephone about the lorry symbol, I enclose a number of conteintnal symbols, the general pattern of which we would like to follow as far as possible. In particular, please let the symbol have two wheels only, represent a big lorry rather than a delivery van, and avoid any impression that it is an articulated vehicle. At the same time it should be as visible as possible when reflectorized.” Kinneir sends a bill for his work (£3/hour for himself, 25/- per hour for assistants), covering design of a stacked sign and lorry route symbol. Bill is for £48 5/-, £20 5/- attributable to lorry route symbol (1 hr Kinneir’s time, 13 hrs assistants). (Stack sign takes him 1 hr, assistants 14 hrs. There is also a 2 ½ hr meeting with Kinneir which is billed for.)

• 34—correspondence between TG Usborne and RL Moore regarding tests of dark and light-green stack signs to be carried out for C’ttee’s benefit between 5-7 PM 26/7/1962 (as it wouldn’t be dark then, actual test to take place within a shed on RRL grounds). Usborne’s letter setting out test specs dated 29/6/1962.

• 33—letter and attached memorandum to Usborne. Memo complains about the design of the various direction signs shown to C’ttee by RRL in a previous direction signing exercise; the complainers viewed signs on 7/5/1962, and advised memo to be read in conjunction with RRL doc “Visit of Traffic Signs Committee to the Road Research Laboratory on April 26th 1962.” Main complaints include the variation in width of fingerpost border at point (French-style fingerposts then being experimented with). They wanted route numbers pointed to by arrowheads.

• 32—Maintenance of traffic signs, including lighting.

• 31—C’ttee’s (working party’s?) handwritten comments regarding attached letter from surveyor of Hastings Co Boro, suggesting that motorists are routinely in doubt (at some point) about the actual speed limit prevailing on a stretch of road. Letter addressed to Marples.

• 30—Working party’s recapitulation of first six meetings. Includes (30A) superseded copy of bollards paper reiterating 1944 c’ttee recommendation that guard posts should be self-illuminated if in unlighted areas (based on recommendation of 1937 dept c’ttee on street lighting). Incls paper on admin of traffic signs. DRE organization viewed as mechanism for delivering uniformity of signing.

• 29—Correspondence and notes on noncomforming “picnic site” signs.

• 28—Traffic signs committee—Paper by the working party on (a) carriageway markings, (b) pedestrian crossings, (c) traffic signals, (d) authorized signs, and (e) miscellaneous signs.

• 27c—draft outline of the paper on pedestrian crossings. Dimensions etc. of Belisha beacons, panda crossing experiment.

• 27b—draft outline of the paper on traffic signals. Covers gantry-mounted signals, tidal flow signals.

• 26—traffic signs committee: paper by the working party on informatory signs. Compares/contrasts UK/protocol requirements, notes that UK allows lots more info signs than protocol, makes recommendations: laybys to be signed as parking places, signing to be continued for natl monuments and NT properties, river name and services (in bypassed villages) signs to be allowed, and specialized footpath/bridleway signs to be resisted, OAP homes and schools not allowed to be signed, etc.

• 25—traffic signs committee: paper by the working party on the illumination of traffic signs. Interesting info on the reflectorization options available in 1961. Retroreflective sheeting largely developed between 1944 c’ttee report and 1957 Regulations, and prescribed in the latter as an alternative to button reflectors in some situations. Button reflectors were prescribed for arrows, speed limit roundels, etc. Beaded reflecting material also used, with surface covered by a large number of small reflecting spherical glass beads. Not used for large signs because of glare, but well suited for small signs. (I think it is extensively used in Mexico.) Also, external lighting, and internal illumination. Internal illumination not much liked because daytime performance inferior to solid-plate signs and they’re susceptible to malicious damage.

• 24—this is correspondence dealing with an experimental sign pioneered by Dorset CC. This had to do with a sign the CC developed which used a red flashing light to warn when children were actually present near schools. Ministry rejected the idea because flashing red associated with railway crossings and pandas, and conveys a compulsion to stop. Devaluation through excessive use also a possibility. (Dorset CC answers this, not effectively, by saying that existing school sign is already devalued.)

• 23—International route numbers. The Working Party wrestles with the difficulty of putting E-route numbers on signs. Part of the problem is that green has already been specified for sign backgrounds, so using the E-route number presents difficulty for white-on-green signs. Committee suggests use of a different shade of green or inclusion on panels. The relevant E-route document, quoted in this paper, is the Declaration on the Construction of Main International Traffic Arteries, signed at Geneva 16 September 1950.

• 22—correspondence regarding a right-hand rule of the road (priorité à droité).

• 21—Entire text of this paper reproduced below.

Note for the working party on the review of traffic signs about the use of route numbers with (M); e.g. A1(M)

From a letter dated 30th September, 1959, which was sent to over 50 interested bodies, the following paragraph has been extracted:

“Where a motorway is merely a by-pass along an existing route, such as the Doncaster By-Pass along Route A1, it will not be given a separate M number but, in order to make clear that it is a motorway and that motorway Regulations apply to it, the letter M will be added in brackets to the existing route number—e.g. A1(M) for the Doncaster By-Pass. This will preserve the continuity of the route-number of long-distance all-purpose roads. Generally speaking by-passes that are eventually linked to form a continuous motorway will preserve the existing route-number (plus M in brackets) until they are so linked.”

The above policy was agreed at a meeting held in Mr. Wykes’ room on 3rd July, 1959 which was attended by:

Mr. CH Wykes Mr. JA Riach Mr. AW Lovett Road Traffic Division Mr. SH Bidgood Highways General Planning Division Mr. BA Payne Highways Special Roads Division

In fact, largely on grounds of economy in the production of traffic signs and maps, some by-passes already constructed which will ultimately become part of main motorway routes have been given the numbers assigned to those routes (e.g. M4 Maidenhead By-Pass; M6 Preston and Lancaster By-Passes).

• 20—Working party paper dealing with new signs. Policy decisions regarding these signs need to be made before design can be settled. Signs include historic houses, camping sites, bypassed towns and villages, OAP homes, and bus stops. Existing signs reviewed: footpaths and bridleways, toilets, places of historic interest, hospitals, ped subways, etc.

• 19—Memo of evidence by the Assn of Municipal Corporations.

• 18—materials from the Committee on Road Safety, including meeting minutes, and minutes of a subcommittee dealing with priorities at junctions (incl roundabouts). Main point is that a general priority rule should not be adopted, but it’s possible to make improvements with a better indication of priority (ie yield or give way instead of slow). No priority rule recommended for roundabouts (evidently this overruled by 1965). There was also controversy about use of double dotted lines for give way—Eastbourne tried them and achieved an accident reduction, much to MOT’s dismay, and got to keep them while findings confirmed elsewhere.

• 17—agenda notes for 10th meeting of the WP. Issues included “REDUCE SPEED NOW” signs used in Scotland—Scottish Office wanted the C’ttee’s views. B’ham CBC also wanted C’tee’s views on its ring route and through route ADSes before it embarked on a major scheme of replacement.

• 15—traffic signs committee: paper by the working party on waiting restrictions and parking signs and sign clutter. Appendix B has pattern-accurate drawings of clearway signs.

• 13—C’tee paper no. 3 on no-waiting and parking signs—outline.

• 12—Road signs: report by the Bradford junior chamber of commerce.

• 11—Memo to treasury. Committee wants to hire Kinneir (at his stipulated wages, quoted above), and wants Treasury authorization to spend up to £3,500.

• 10—Letter from Kinneir saying how much his services are likely to cost. He says he extracted £2,123 from the MOT for the Anderson committee work (but much of that on a flat-fee basis), and since Worboys work is likely to be more ambitious, he suggests a realistic budget of £3,500. Letter dated 27/1/1962.

• 9—Committee on traffic signs: paper by the working party on warning, prohibitory, and mandatory signs. Goes into the history of traffic signing symbolism in the UK, including the LGB 1904 circular.

• 8—Committee on traffic signs: Paper No. 1 from the Working Party. What are traffic signs?

• 7—Views from the British travel and Holidays Assn Home Committee. Expressed at their meeting 25/4/1961.

• 6—Revised outline of committee agenda. Contains an outline of the eventual report, but in draft.

• 5—A letter regarding signposting of junction names. The author (Gilchrist?) likes the idea, but suggests it is most useful in large conurbations where a junction has a well-known name but is complex and might otherwise be difficult to find; suggests its extensive use in London (Marble Arch, E&C, Hyde Park Corner etc. all cited).

• 4—[yet another] Street Parking Places and Waiting Restrictions [essay].

• 2—Notes for WPP 2 on Warning etc. signs—Historical evolution of present UK signs. Are these adequate? Etc.

Note: writing up the contents of this file took a full 2 hours.

MT 113/46

This file deals with the pros and cons of uppercase vs lowercase lettering on motorway signs. It takes in a lot of factors including overall sign size, desirability of spaces around legend, experimental research dealing with superiority of uppercase versus lowercase (part of the problem appears to be inability to agree on a common standard for height of letter and kerning characteristics for comparison purposes), etc. There is a massive amount of correspondence, article clippings, interviews, RRL reports, etc etc etc. Plus there is a considerable amount on design of the signs themselves, including the lack of layout design rules and spacing rules for the characters. Other materials include photographic mockups of a five-arm roundabout sign—both Kinneir’s original design as shown in the Anderson report and David Kindersley’s much smaller and more horizontally oriented replacement, which he attempted to sell to the landscape design people (David Bowes-Lyon) but which was unsuitable because of constrained motorway ROW. These were reproduced extensively in late 1950’s-early 1960’s issues of Design magazine and Traffic Engineering + Control and should be viewable in the Bodleian.

MT 95/496

Much as described in prefatory section above. One of the changes under dispute include economical avoidance of “flat spots” in the road when developing superelevation. Drake did it by moving the crown to the outside edge of the road in the curve, but at great expense (requiring a £56,000 change order—“variation order”—on the Birmingham-Preston motorway to eliminate 40-50 potential “flat spots,” which was reluctantly countersigned by Keep, his ministry contact, who turned around and insisted that the Motorway Design Memorandum be revised to insist that the cost be avoided by modifications of the longitudinal grade if possible). There were about 20 other topics covered by the MDM for which changes and fine-tuning were suggested, including splay curbs, the 55-yd markers (delineators?) which were thought not to be absolutely necessary at that frequency—110 yds were suggested by several commentors—but which were believed to be vital in delineating back edge of the HS, which was then stabilized vegetated and looked like the grass verge.