National Archives 2003-10-21

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Have to finish photographing MT 95/709, and am moving on to MT 95/200 (the Chiswick flyover signs file). However:

DSIR 28/218

Requested this file because I have learned, from other DSIR files previously photographed, that what in the 1930’s were called “planning” issues but which really covered things like geometric design, were in the prewar years the responsibility of the Ministry’s Experimental Work on Highways committee, which was separate from the Road Research Board (which in turn focused largely on materials and pavement structure issues). A subseries under DSIR 28 deals with augmentation of the Experimental Work on Highways committee to consider revisions to Memorandum 483, an edition of “Lay-out and Design of Roads.” The file captioned above is agendas (not meeting minutes) and makes certain specific recommendations, such as 11’ lanes being the usual minimum width, 12’ lanes desirable, and 10’ acceptable only in exceptional cases, for new-location rural roads, but does not cite the specific research basis—references are made to “experience has shown,” etc. It is not clear whether research was actually sponsored, whether the Ministry and RRL were relying on Road Abstracts, and if the latter is true, if this was because there was so little new-location work in Britain (work consisting of isolated arterial projects plus “fiddling with what’s there”) that there was no perceived need to commission research into speed/flow/capacity geometric design relationships similar to what Todt called for when getting the Autobahnen underway, and similar to what was being done by the HRB and BPR in the US. (The latter would be understandable since it fits into the general road planning schema of the time—no separation between strategy and detail, and many instances of high-minded ramblings about traffic congestion giving way to “solutions” consisting of mindnumbingly detailed specific projects a la Bressey highway plan, with new-location roads being limited to London arterial roads gestated by the BOT’s London Traffic Department, specific projects generated as political gifts to the unemployed, and schemes sponsored by enterprising county councils.)

Don’t remember what 483 had to say about curve radii, and don’t think this was discussed in the DSIR 28 subseries because the 483 advice was not regarded as requiring change.

Of course all of this changed when the RRL became specifically charged with studying traffic and safety—this entered their remit post-WW II.

Don’t want to give in too easily to the conclusion that there was no research basis to the 483/575 recommendations regarding geometric highway design. Will continue to search for refs to the Ministry committee and other materials on the research basis.

MT 95/709

Starting again . . .

. . . Finished.

DSIR 27/151

Photographed this.

AIR 40/----

File dealt with German motor roads (Air Ministry intelligence). Photographed it.

MT 95/200

Leaving this.