MT 95/924

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Location National Archives
Title Development of emergency signalling (emergency fog and speed limit signs etc.); 1965 correspondence and ministerial brief
Date range 1965-1971
Catalogue See entry


This is the main file on the "Motorwarn" system - the emergency signals introduced on motorways in the late 1960s as a panic interim measure following a number of high-profile accidents in fog. The other outcome of this panic policy was the National Speed Limit, which shared a press release with the Motorwarn launch.

What this file makes clear is the extent to which Motorwarn was a complete bodge-job that was rolled out in a frantic rush. The units appear to have been two commercially bought amber lamps mounted on a rectangle of plywood, which in turn was mounted on a plank of 2x2 wood. This was painted black and planted in the verge alongside a metal box (painted yellow with the hand-written letters "MOT") which had a switch on top and a car battery inside. The wiring ran down the back of the post and the whole assembly was then painted black.

Before long it became common knowledge that the boxes had car batteries in them, and they started going missing very rapidly. In the middle of the file are a couple of padlock catalogues. Most of the file is actually discussion of what to do after the scheme had been running for a couple of years and the batteries were starting to lose their ability to hold charge.

Contents of note

  • Press release outlining Motorwarn and the new National Speed Limit, both then temporary and experimental measures.
  • Padlock brochure circa 1968 with model 550 circled.
  • Excellent publicity photo of one of the Motorwarn installations, making clear just what a back-of-the-fag-packet design it was.

Links to other files

MT 95/668 Traffic signals: emergency warning signs and signals (1962-1964)

People with camera copies

Chris Marshall has a partial camera copy.