National Archives 2003-05-29

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Back at the PRO as usual, although arrived later than usual. (Sat down with docs at 12.45 last time; this time it’s 1 PM.) Three files requested to start. Going to try to do a full nine files today.

MT 121/70

This file contains committee papers, draft reports, meeting minutes, agendas and correspondence (plus a few press cuttings on American turnpikes) of the WPM1. Perhaps the most important single document in the file is a piece of correspondence, from one c’ttee member to another, explaining that most of the evidence viewed by the committee trended against motorways and discussing ways to address this evidence so as to develop a convincing argument that motorways should be built. The main issue faced by WPM1 was apparently to find a way in which a patently strategic decision to build motorways in defined interurban corridors, connecting one city to another, could be justified in economic terms.

Much in here worth copying.

MT 121/71

Much the same as MT 121/70, only differently arranged.

Check Charlesworth and Dudley & Richardson and see what they have to say.

MT 121/517

This file contains papers of the Working Party on Aids to Travel and Safety on Motorways—which was evidently responsible for addressing the following sorts of questions:

• Junction numbering • Resigning motorways to reflect the primary route destinations chosen in the wake of the Worboys report • Emergency signals on motorways (fog, ice, accident, etc.—M5 was the guinea pig for this) • Emergency signals for Severn Bridge, Chiswick-Langley, M1, etc. • Treatment of parking on motorways • Signing of 70 MPH speed limit (why?—maybe because it was recently imposed, and was not yet considered a NSL not requiring any signing except special safety repeaters) • How to encourage motorists to obey revealed “secret signs” • Distinguishing separate destinations on signs (at one point, a 2 SW separation was expanded to 5 SW) • Etc.

Much here worth copying, but few drawings other than a mock-up of the A52 Nottingham ½ mile ADS with junction number plate (38).

MT 106/331

Have ordered this file before—ordered it again by mistake. Folding it up again!

MT 109/188

This file is entitled “Motorways temporary work signs” and covers about a decade from 1958. There are three main topics of interest:

• Controversy with LAs about the Ministry’s “Major Road Improvement Ahead” signs, which they felt were really advertisements and were so large that if the MOT weren’t erecting the signs, they wouldn’t be allowed under the Control of Advertisements Regulations. These signs were put up over LA objections (for the most part) because they were expressly requested by the Minister, to allow drivers to see the work in progress (so to speak). There were basically two generations of design: the first featured black-on-white signs with, e.g. “MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT/MAIDSTONE BYPASS” in the old MOT font, and “Agents: Hallamshire County Council” in some sort of invented mixed-case script (not sure if Kinneir font used at this point). This was replaced circa 1964 by something similar to the current design, with (e.g.) “Ministry of Transport/M.4 Maidenhead to Slough/One of Britain’s motorways/Agent: Berkshire County Council” in white Transport Medium on blue background. • Controversy, including letters from the public, on how properly to sign lane closures and contraflows (many writers demanded the Cadillac system, ie VMS, while the MOT considered signs good enough), and whether roadworks contractors were in fact following the MOT’s established guidelines. • Probably the first suggestion that the triangular “cricket stump” warning sign (to indicate lane closures) be replaced by a “wicket sign” (informatory sign shape and colors) indicating the closed lanes was made in a 1966 letter (internal to MOT) illustrated by hand drawings of the signs. The arguments made in favor of this, viz. that the rectangular shape made it easier to show the symbols at a larger size, were not felt to be cogent at this time.

MT 152/120

This is the first of two files dealing with signs to be provided on the Ross Motorway. Three county councils involved—Gloucester, Hereford, Worcester. This file contains most of the correspondence, while the other file contains plans etc. Salient points:

• More information on motorway emergency signs, which were being experimented with here. • Information about tenders for signs and posts (Tarmac supplied RC posts for the signs while D&M Reflective supplied the sign panels). • Major running controversy about signposting “Gloucester” from the motorway. As I don’t know the geography of the area in detail, I can barely piece it together, but the main features appear to be this: (1) Downs, the Glos CS, who in the opinion of JE Jones at MOT HQ is just as bad as his predecessor Boyce (pissing off the Chief Engineer and so on), does not want Gloucester signed via the A417 because he feels he had to build a bridge on the A417 in 1954 with steel which had been stored since before the war and was probably of substandard strength, and anyway the route is 7 miles longer. (2) There is also a Class II route from motorway to Glos which passes through Newent. Glos CS also does not want it to be used for signposting a route to Glos, because Newent has complained. (3) MOT does not want to signpost Glos via A40 because it feels traffic should be using the motorway instead. DRE/SW, Hubbard, forced to act as a peacemaker between Jones and Downs. The end result is that MOT caves in by putting “Gloucester” on the ADS for A417, but also patching it out, and the endgame is that Downs pesters Jones about “Gloucester” being visible on these ADS (patch not applied) and Jones bites his nose off—“It is not my habit to go back on promises made,” etc.

Going to pick up the plans . . .

MT 152/121

This file is a huge disappointment—no plans, although it contains a BOQ and specifications for the signs. It is mostly a correspondence file, similar to MT 152/120. It deals with various signing issues arising on the M50 after completion, such as the destinations to be signed off the M50 and what the route confirmatory signs are to say. Some salient issues:

• The Newent signing issue flares up again in 1972, with Banks (Hereford CS) this time wanting traffic discouraged from going through Ross to get to Gloucester, and a BP apparently having been constructed around Newent but Downs thinking that the B4221/B4224 as a whole is still unsuitable for signposting to Gloucester. • One junction on the M50 (J1, the M50 EB to M5 SB movement) has a sharp bend, marked with sharp bend sign, arrow board, and 30 MPH advisory speed plate. However, there is still a long history of crashes in spite of the additional signing. The CS in the area having responsibility wants permission in 1974 to convert the EDS to a map-type diagrammatic showing the sharp curve of the exit ramp, but approval from DOE HQ is not forthcoming owing to the additional size (and therefore cost) of such a sign, plus a firm conviction that the warning sign treatment should be enough on its own. The proposed alternative is to put up bigger signs at different spacing. • Signing for Traveller’s Rest Roundabout—there is stuff about this being retrofitted with the Worboys-standard roundabout signing treatment. Previously it had had the old, Anderson-style “REDUCE SPEED NOW” signing treatment, with a shepherd’s-crook graphic above “REDUCE SPEED NOW” on a much larger sign panel. Also, a “Go left” sign (and maybe arrow boards?) were apparently also to be fitted.

MT 121/308

This file consists exclusively of two items:

• Correspondence between the MOT and Freeman Fox, mostly in 1963, to set up an agreement whereby FF would design a series of standard gantry signs, to be approved by the Royal Fine Arts Commission, for the MOT and bill only for expenses and technical staff time (3s per hour), with the time of their Partners (meaning mainly OA Kerensky) being offered FOC. The total estimated cost for their services was around £2,500, with £500 of that being for preparation of models of the gantries. • In the end, FF came up with about ten different designs. These must have subsequently become standard on the motorway network since most gantries appear to be done to those standards. The plans envelope at end of file gives 19 drawings, consisting of 9 walkway details and 10 drawings showing gantries in plan, elevation, and section. Only three of the drawings showed gantries with trusses: one gantry with truss legs, the other two with box-section legs, and none of the trusses conformed to American truss design ideas, as they had no vertical elements—just bars arranged in what appear to be equilateral triangles. (The basic design concept appears to have been the tetrahedron rather than the rectangular prism with reinforced corners.) The other gantries were all box-section or tubular variants, with the same type of section generally being used for the sides that were used for the horizontal element. These were all full-width OSBs spanning one carriageway of the motorway; there were no cantilever overhead sign designs.

MT 118/122

This file deals with the same topic as MT 121/308, but is generally focused on issues pertaining to the steelwork. Salient contents:

• Correspondence with the Associated Steel Companies regarding their alternative standard gantry sign design—it was considered not acceptable since it made use of stressed (cold-rolled) and spot-welded steel complying to the specification for building steel rather than continuously welded hot-rolled steel meeting the standard for steel to be used in bridges. • Correspondence with FF regarding their problems with the RAFC. The MOT at one point had to send letters to the RAFC to tell them to cease and desist with demands to have the backplates removed (this would expose the horizontal and vertical sign support elements), to have the signs stand clear of the girder supporting the walkways, etc. Also, FF tried to introduce a large variety of designs and ran into difficulties, and asked for a new payment authorization taking their pay entitlement up to £4000. • Correspondence with CS about the difficulties associated with on-site assembly of gantries. Drake and the Hertfordshire CS did this and didn’t report difficulties, although Hertfordshire CS was concerned about aligning the downward-pointing arrows with lanes. • Pictures of the Associated Steel Cos. Gantry designs. • Etc.