National Archives 2003-05-27

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Arrived at the PRO at the usual time (12.30). Not all files requested were immediately available.

MT 55/338

Covering date 1947, very thin file, contains a memo by HR Lintern on the implications of the Alness committee’s final report WRT issues of interest to the Ministry, specifically ones where the Ministry was not in full concurrence with the Alness C’ttee. These had to do with (1) priority of schemes for road improvement, (2) use of white lines to define three lanes on SC roads, (3) service roads, (4) model traffic areas, (5) white lines on c’ways, (6) arcaded footpaths, (7) curbs and guardposts, (8) blackspot signs, (9) road obstructions, (10) priority at uncontrolled intersections, (11) Traffiscopes™ (mirrors for blind curves), (12) bus stops/waiting bays, (13) bus shelters/queue barriers, and (14) tram issues. In most cases the MOT recommended against making new regulations, and calling for experimentation. In the case of bus stops etc. the MOT recommended that design advice stress the advantage of not siting them even with islands and other road obstructions, and placing those on opposite sides of the road in such a way that vehicles leaving their stops on their respective sides would move away from each other rather than closing toward each other. (How much better it would be in the High St if this recommendation had been adopted in Oxford!!!!)

Yes: 2 files were held back.

MT 39/516

This file is largely and exclusively concerned with correspondence pertaining to appointment of a Memo 483 revision committee (Committee on road layout and design in built-up areas) under the chairmanship of Sir Frederick Cook. There is little concrete information on road design, and the file as a whole is thin. The only thing in it with a spark of interest is the Scottish Office’s role as an awkward squad, demanding that the scope be expanded to include TCP.

MT 39/537

This file contains mostly correspondence regarding publication of the built-up areas report. The organization of the committee to prepare this report was the subject of the last file. There is a proof copy of the report, one copyright clearance letter signed by HS Fairbanks (Commissioner for Public Roads), lots of letters containing comments from committee members and others, and a précis of the committee’s conclusions prepared for the Minister’s benefit.

MT 120/61

This file (original code HGP 14/38/01) is largely concerned with road planning in urban areas 1955-61, although it is entitled “layout and construction roads general.” The basic issue at stake is that the MOT, in 1955, needed to issue general guidelines to local authorities explaining what kinds of traffic information they had to include in their road plans and proposals in order to earn MOT approval/scheme support. This resulted in the MOT realizing that the 1946 BUA report was the last guidance they had issued, that Housing & Local Govt had not issued anything since a 1949 manual (development planning or some such—check for the specific title in Charlesworth or Dudley & Richardson), and that it would be useful to publish additional guidance. The result was Memo 653 (an amendment to Memo 575), and a model “Trunk Road Appreciation” (included) using A3 London to Guildford as an example. (Use the ICE British Motorways conference proceedings volume to contextualize the program of trunk road appreciations. Also, check Dudley & Richardson to see how this effort interfaced with the working party set up to rekindle the motorway-building initiatives.)

MT 95/894

This file is HE 62/001 Part 2 and contains:

• A draft of a MOT memo, “Traffic Prediction in Rural Areas” • A draft of another MOT memo, “Road layout and design in rural areas”—the successor to Memos 575, 653, and 780, incorporating design advice for motorways. • Correspondence between MOT civil servants and outside engineers (mainly consultants and CSes, but one or two members of the public as well) asking for information on the proposals or commenting on various aspects of the drafts.

The drafts are fair copies, and there are five diagrams in an envelope in the back. Otherwise there is not too much of interest in this file. There were some complaints about apparent relaxations of standards and the creation of a separate category of “suburban motorway” which, it was felt, brought the MOT closer to equating capacity to volume. Also correspondence with a civil engineer doing a volume on “Traffic Engineering Practice” for FW Spon, including a draft chapter for MOT comment.

MT 95/709

There is much of interest in this file, which contains meeting minutes, reports, correspondence, and working papers of the Traffic Engineering Committee which was subordinate to the Working Party on Motorways. Many of the reports have extensive photographic illustrations showing motorways soon after opening. Much of the content also deals with traffic signing to be provided on motorways, including special signs to address site-specific conditions, and several drafts of a COP on emergency signing for motorways (fog, ice, etc.; also various lighting options—neon as on NJTP was rejected partly because the C’ttee wanted the message not to be read when it was not needed).

Sending this file back in anticipation of its future duplication by camera, WHICH MUST BE DONE.

Note: this Working Party is not the same as the more or less identically named Working Party convened in 1954 to actually get the motorways built.

T 228/424

This file, with covering dates 1954-55 and original file code TI 40/160/01, is the Treasury end of the Working Party on Motorways. The Treasury sent an observer and then made a point of not ratifying the WPM’s conclusions because they were not based on detailed COBA and marginal benefit analysis of various design features. MUCH IN THIS FILE WORTH COPYING, though.

MT 95/642

This file has 1961-68 covering dates and contains part of the material generated by the Working Party on Motorway Design and Construction. There are minutes for several meetings, a copy of the Third Report of the WP, drafts of the Third Report, comments (including a lengthy correspondence between Glanville and MOT about the disparity between American and British casualty figures on the M1/American toll roads, the reasons for them, and how to represent them in the final report, as well as about the general desirability of a lighting experiment on motorways), and some correspondence about safety fencing which was supposed to be transferred to a different file (HE 100/15/011) but was left in this file instead (original file code HE 100/15/08). MUCH WORTH COPYING—from a signs POV, as well, as it contextualizes some of the other files pertaining to signing on the M1, on the M4 Heathrow portion, on the M4 Chiswick-Langley flyover, policy about signing motorway-to-motorway junctions (initially the three motorway-to-motorway junctions associated with the M1 had been signed using ground-mounted signs only, and the WP followed its Traffic Engineering Committee in concluding that these were not much good and that gantry signs should be provided instead), and even (in 1965) discussions about how to identify motorway junctions. Junction names, as used in Germany and Italy, were considered, but ultimately the Committee decided to go for the US model of sequential junction numbering because many junctions had purely local names meaningless to through traffic and these would clash with the more meaningful names the MOT might devise, such as Lancaster South to indicate the junction leading to the southern link road for Lancaster. In addition, junction numbering had the advantage of being compact and easy to sign, and when shown on maps the numbers wouldn’t blot out as much map detail as names. The basic principle was to start junction numbering at London for the radial motorways, and at motorway bifurcations for spurs off the radial motorways, and to format junction numbers on a [road number sans ‘M’]/[junction number] basis—e.g., M1 would have junctions numbered 1/1, ½, 1/3, ¼, etc. (I don’t know what caused the slash format to be eliminated, but it may have had something to do with bracketed motorways like A1(M) which would have clashed.) For multiexit interchanges, such as motorway-to-motorway interchanges (cloverleafs and such), all exits were to be united under a single junction number, with the final choice of exit being made through the other direction signing as usual.

COU 6/128

This is the Countryside Commission’s file on the Waterstock-to-Warwick portion of the M40. It contains a rather interesting snapshot of route negotiation as it developed into the 1970’s; the DOE published a public consultation paper (essentially a survey) in 1974, which invited local people to choose their preferred route, and by 1975 resulted in the DOE choosing a route further SW of King’s Sutton than that preferred by their own RCU. Both the public consultation and the route choice in defiance of the RCU were novel for that time. Plus, the M40 survived the Leitch report, although construction didn’t commence until the mid- to late 1980’s.