National Archives 2003-05-20

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Arrived at PRO much as usual. Ordered three files: MT 106/331, MT 95/605, and DSIR 12/257. I wasn’t issued with the latter as it is supposed to be read on its own. So will come to it later.

MT 106/331

Most of the content of this file is from 1967 or thereabouts. It concerns how Heathrow was to be signed from the M1. At that time the M1 was apparently not quite complete through to the North Circular Road, since the preferred route for signposting HGVs to Heathrow called for traffic to be guided from the M1 onto the A41, then to the North Circular, then to the M4, then out west to Heathrow. A counterproposal suggested that a more direct route through Harrow, Staines, etc. (in what later became the M25 corridor) should be signed, but the route was not all DC like the M1/A41/North Circular/M4 route, so it was not in fact carried. The related question of how to sign from Heathrow to the M1 was excluded from consideration since it was felt that Heathrow traffic was likely to be a very low proportion of the total except near Heathrow, and its needs should be catered for as part of a general consideration of how to sign route interchanges in London.

This is a second-order file and was obviously superseded when the M25 was constructed. There are three plans at the back, however: a sign design sheet (not pattern-accurate) showing signs for the terminals to be put up within Heathrow itself; a sign layout sheet (also not PA) showing how the airport was to be signed off the roundabouts leading to it (the sign drawings show patches running out to the border and suggest that one reason signs were consistently misfabricated this way was that they were drawn this way); and a second, somewhat smaller-scale sign layout sheet with larger drawings of the signs themselves which has Biro’d corrections to some of the controlling destinations.

Not too much in this file worth copying, but it’s still an interesting illustration of how various interest groups (including a departmental [?] working party on Air Freight and the Road Haulage Association) became involved in the decision of how to signpost a link between the M1/Heathrow. Interesting use of the term safeguard in this file: a roundabout, road junction, etc. is said to be safeguarded if provision has been made for installing signs with certain placenames which should suffice to prevent a reasonably cautious driver seeking a certain controlling destination from losing his or her route to that controlling destination.

This file was coded as LH 22/25/4/01 Part 2. What happened to Part 1?

MT 95/605

This file is pretty damned important and definitely P—it deals with how MOT addressed the issue of signposting trunk roads built to motorway standard in the immediate aftermath of the Anderson work, but before the Worboys committee had been appointed. DREs got orders from MOT HQ to experiment with large, motorway-sized signs in the same general style as those recommended by the Anderson Committee and experimented with on the Stamford Bypass (A1?), get RRL to collect data, and put data at service of Anderson Committee if it was appointed to consider DC trunk road signing issues, or to a new reconstituted committee if one should be appointed. These instructions were given in a circular from JFA Baker (CE) to the DREs.

In addition to circular copies, correspondence, minute sheets etc. a folder at the end contains samples of two route confirmatory signs.

A1 (A57) Newark 18m Lincoln 21m

Notes: 8” outer radius at corners; 1½” wide white inner border; ½” green margin; nonreflective overall green background; route numbers etc. at 12” height (UC letter height); destinations and abbreviation “m” at 8” LC loop height; distance numbers 9 ½” number height; minimum distance between destination & distance columns apparently 8”. All legend reflectorized white.

A1 (A57) Doncaster 20m Worksop 6m

Not dimensioned, but similar in format to previous drawing.

This file was coded as HE 4/059 Part I. What happened to Part II?

DSIR 12/257

Much in this file worth copying. This is the RRL’s set of archive copies of research reports for (all of?) 1959—BU 467-505. A great deal of the reports concern research commissioned for development of a motorway signing system, including a comparison of US, German, and prototype British practice, a study of sign lighting lanterns, a study of specular reflections on signs, etc.

MT 95/604

This file deals with traffic sign lettering. It is mostly miscellaneous correspondence from sign manufacturers and type vendors seeking camera-ready copies of the Kinneir alphabets. However, the most interesting correspondence is toward the end (early 1960’s), when the MOT tries to hire Kinneir to tile his alphabet. Apparently the original version of Transport Medium had been based on kerning pairs much like the traditional FHWA series, and MOT wanted the letters to be tiled in order to simplify fabrication. This was estimated to cut costs by 5% per sign. However, Kinneir was not very keen to do this, so Kindersley (!) was approached about doing it. This file does not appear to have all the correspondence involved as there is no indication whether Kinneir or Kindersley was subsequently hired to do the work. There is, however, much interesting discussion of the pros and cons of tiling, and an explanation of the factors to be considered in tiling letters successfully.

MT 112/392

This file deals with the process of proposing new signs and taking comments on the draft 1975 TSRGD. Much of the correspondence has to do with bus stop signs, which were to be standardized (London wanted an exception for existing LT bus stop signs), how to adapt English signs for bilingual provision in Wales (many minutes on this topic), justification for octagonal stop (by then an European standard, and had originally been preferred by RRL in 1960’s), how box junction markings are to work, etc. In addition, these regulations introduced the WOB “Tourist Information” sign (now gone) and some of the heavy vehicle length and weight restriction signs; warning signs for tunnels; special signs to help long heavy vehicles across railway crossings (response to the Hixon incident); and a “local”/”coaches” signing distinction was proposed to help local authorities deal with motorcoaches sliding in as local buses.

FCO 76/360

This deals with the Marine & Transport Dept. of the FCO’s attempts to accommodate the Bowen committee’s demands for information regarding bilingual signing abroad. Much of the file is concerned with the mechanics of brokering information between the committee, the Welsh Office, the M&T Dept., and the local legations (embassies, high commissions, etc.). It’s clear the FCO doesn’t welcome the research project, especially after the Committee passes it a technical questionnaire (covering some 26-odd questions) which they want passed to competent officials in the local road administrations. Some legations attempt to answer the questionnaire themselves, while M&T Dept in general offers to make contact between the committee and members of the foreign road admins who might be able to answer their questions. This leads to visits to Ireland, Switzerland, Finland, and Belgium (?) which are brokered by the local legations and produce much info for the committee. However, very little of this winds up in the file. The main exceptions are color layouts showing the new signs proposed for use in Ireland as of 1971 (a Worboys-style layout adopted, but old route numbering system still in place with “trunk” and “local” routes, etc.), and drawings of some bilingual French/Flemish signs used in the capital region in Belgium. The FCO is not able to help with historical information on bilingual signing (typical!) and, in what looks like the stripey-pants’ bid to reduce their workload, profess themselves unable to understand some of the questionnaire elements (such as a question dealing with typeface and legibility).

Still, much in this file is of interest.

MT 95/606

THIS FILE MUST BE RETURNED TO LATER!! It contains a full set of pattern-accurate signing typicals (dimensioned!!) for a signing system for trunk roads improved to motorway standard, but not motorways, which was based on the existing motorway signing system (as proposed by the Anderson committee) but used green background instead of blue and had a system of warning signs similar to the ones later introduced by Worboys (but using Anderson graphics, and with integral WoG supplementary plates—restricted repertory of messages: road narrows, various intersection configurations etc.). This file is nearly all plans and working drawings except for a specification for lighting signs based on the RRL’s research into a Fresnel lens-based lighting system. This file, BTW, is the other part of HE 4/059.

MT 95/690

This concerns an experiment the Worboys committee wanted carried out into direction signing in Lambeth BC. Basically three main signs were being tested: (1) a green-background diagrammatic with many destinations, of essentially modern design except “Ring Road” (pointed to by two stub arms, indicating the sign was positioned on a road intersecting the Ring Road) appeared in yellow while the other legend appeared in white; (2) a “Ring Road” confirmatory plate, with all foreground elements yellow, and green background; and (3) the eventual Worboys intersection warning signs. The typewritten material in the file is mostly background—setting up the experiment with the BC, finding a signing contractor, resolving technical issues connected with the posts etc. In addition to the sign drawings, which are pattern-accurate, there are layout drawings which are not pattern-accurate, and tracings of the signs in the same hand which appears to have been used for the illustrations to the MOT’s brochure on design of directional informatory signs (published 1967?). There are also drawings of the Kinneir Transport Medium alphabet on letter tiles, indicating it had been tiled by that point. (Interesting that no spacing chart for the untiled version appears to have survived.)

AY 26/148

This is just KS Rutley’s report on “A second investigation into bilingual (Welsh/English) traffic signs.” Definitely worth photocopying, but should probably check that a copy isn’t available elsewhere through copyright deposit or similar.

MT 112/351

This is the file (covering dates 1971-72) containing the MOT’s (now the DOE’s) end of the controversy over bilingual traffic signs in Wales. The contents include much correspondence between MOT traffic sign people (apparently part of the Road Safety Traffic or RST division) and their opposite numbers in the Roads Division at the Welsh Office, copies of Rutley’s first report on bilingual signs, copies of the plates to accompany the Rutley report, copies of the 1970 regulations giving Welsh local authorities permission to experiment with bilingual signs, copies of the 1969 press notice announcing the 1970 regulations and describing the principles under which Welsh LAs were to be free to choose to provide bilingual signing with the WO following suit with primary routes in the area of each LA changing to bilingual signs, the MOT’s statements and evidence to the Bowen committee, and a consultation paper on a proposed repeal/re-enactment of TSRGD 1964 dated 1969.

This last-listed item proposed some new signs which were not in fact adopted, such as “Holiday Route” signs with “HR” against a yellow background on a squared-off panel on directional signs (there was even an ADS for “Holiday Route,” with the square yellow “HR” patch in the Diagram 667 format). Metrication was also a concern at the time; it was anticipated that traffic signs would have to be metricated (an EEA directive was then pending) by 1979, or 1982 if the UK managed to negotiate an exemption. (In the event, it did not happen.) The 1969 consultation paper solicited views from LAs on how best to metricate, and proposed a transition period where all signs which had been converted to metric (through overlays etc.) would have orange square diamonds prominently affixed to them, regardless of whether metric units were explicit or not.

The plates demonstrate that several approaches to fitting bilingual name pairs on direction signs were considered in Rutley’s first report. These were:

• Adding extra space between name pairs • Putting the Welsh legend in slightly smaller all-uppercase • Putting the Welsh legend in white against a brown background (not a conventional patch since it was allowed to run into borders etc.)—apparently this was considered, and diagrammed, only for signs having white backgrounds, such as supplementary plates for regulatory signs and non-primary direction signs • Putting in “tie bars” (brackets straddling each name pair on the left, with the bracket horizontal CL more or less collinear with the baseline for the first name in the pair

Only the first option seems to have gained any favor. In the first study, Rutley varied the spacing between name pairs to see how sensitive the problem of recognizing distinct placenames was to spacing, and also tested different spacings with some of the other approaches to see how their effectiveness was altered by varying the spacing. Rutley’s report also contained numerous illustrations of existing bilingual signs, mainly LA boundary signs which were broadly compliant with Worboys design standards.


MT 95/689

This file concerns an experiment in direction signing on a bypass forming part of the Great North Road (A1) ini the general vicinity of Stamford, Buckden, Perry, Huntingdon, etc. The experimental signs still form the basis for some current TSRGD primary-route signs (eg the one for Pickering, Scarborough, and York, but this particular one may have been at a different experimental location on the A1), but with the important difference that most of the diagrammatics have arrowheads instead of stub arms—this includes both forks and roundabout maps. Also, filled chevrons à la Anderson were experimented with. Aside from these differences and also a stack sign with a route number straddling the separate panels for opposite directions (California-style), most of the signs were relatively modern in design. However, I am basing this supposition on the working paper/committee document/report written by the Worboys people after they had field-inspected the signs, which does not have pattern-accurate illustrations. Much of the rest of the file is almost exclusively correspondence with Worboys contacts and also the sign fabricators held by the MOT to get the signs put in place, to figure out how to pay for them, chasing up problems such as some letters on the signs not being reflectorized, taking quotes from makers of vitreous enamel signs, etc. (apparently, at one point, the Worboys people were considering the possibility of using Scotchlite reflective foreground elements on vitreous enamel).

The plans & pictures envelope contains several PA tracings of the signs (can’t recall whether these included the odd diagrammatics) and an installation plan.