National Archives 2003-06-10

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Arrived at the PRO much as usual.

PRO today: DSIR reports on the first tests of economic feasibility for motorways. Most of this material dates from 1952-53, so I suspect only “tabletop” demonstrations were being considered. This was probably Smeed’s unit. Will have to see if costings of marginal features were considered.

DSIR 12/95

This contains papers BE41 through BE72. Apparently “E” in BE means economics. These are mostly reports of economic assessments: costs of road accidents (calculated using hedonic and WTP methods), economic benefits of road improvements (including a major urban intersection improvement project in Holborn), and BE68—the paper really worth looking at—setting out a procedure for calculating the economic benefit of motorways, and reporting a survey of American and continental European literature.

BE 68 is quite well worth copying.

Covering dates for this file: January 1952 to November 1953.

DSIR 12/96

This file contains BE74 through BE91 and has covering dates January 1954-July 1955.

The most important papers it contains are BE74, by RJ Reynolds relating the demand for private cars in Britain to income levels (good economic history stuff), and BE86, by TM Coburn explaining what has been done to survey the economic effects of constructing the London-Birmingham Motorway. But there are also vital papers by Charlesworth’s unit on the effect of minor improvement schemes (mostly alterations in carriageway markings and curb line) on traffic flow and travel time, on the design of a suitable traffic sufficiency criterion, measuring the costs of delay, coming up with a cost index for road accidents, and allocating road priorities on an economic basis.

DSIR 12/97

Covering dates July 1955-November 1956, and contains papers BE93-BE117. Interesting papers include Coburn’s progress reports on the LBM economic effects evaluation (BE97 and BE116), RJ Reynolds’ exploration of how vehicle fuel consumption varies with traffic behavior (BE108), and a paper on speed-flow relationships on single-track roads in the Scottish Highlands (BE106) which finds that the effect on capacity of having only one 10 ft lane open to traffic versus having two 12 ft lanes open to traffic is such that the work of widening the road to 24 ft would pay 15% PA on the capital cost. This is the first British information I have so far found which relates speed-flow relationships to lane width—apparently the American discourse of “highway capacity” is not carried on using the same terminology in this country, but the British must have some way of relating the cost of building motorways to their ability to serve traffic.

LOT in this file worth copying.

MT 95/743

This file contains plans associated with a proposed experimental roundabout in Nottingham (on the Leeds Road) having offside priority, to be signed with “GIVE WAY TO TRAFFIC ON RIGHT” signs. The plans include sign layout sheets (showing where the signs are to be erected) and several copies of several designs for the signs:

• Standard Worboys-style “GIVE WAY” sign (present-day Diagram 602) • Original “GIVE WAY TO TRAFFIC ON RIGHT” sign with original MOT typeface, curved arrow pointing to right across bottom of legend, and straight-up linestroke just below arrow (representing the approach arm), thin red border, and swoopingly curved bottom. We know from other files that this basic sign design, possibly not having linestroke, dates from 1955 at least. • Modification of original “GIVE WAY TO TRAFFIC ON RIGHT” sign with Transport Heavy legend, no arrow, no linestroke, somewhat thicker red border, and swoopingly curved bottom. This drawing is a standard MOT (B2870A, IIRC) and dated June 1963.

MT 95/744

Basically the same as previous file, except there is a wider diversity of plans indicating that the offside priority roundabout concept was being trialled in, inter alia, Preston, Gloucester, Grimsby, at least one town in Yorkshire, etc.

MT 95/742

Same as previous, except that there are no sign drawings—just plans from more LAs.

[Taking a break now because I went through these files very rapidly]

MT 95/335

This file has a covering date of 1958 and is very short. It contains the MOT’s copy of the RRL’s report on the legibility of the redesigned signs (consisting of American-style stack-type and Continental-style map-type signs) trialled in the Slough experiment of 1955, together with a cover letter from the author (RL Moore) and an acknowledgment/thank-you note from WJ Hadfield at the MOT, suggesting that the Slough signs be left in place for a possible forthcoming research program into new sign designs/comprehensive bottom-up redesign of the signing system. Moore’s report is RN 3304.

MT 95/7

This file is captioned “Traffic sign authorisations—policy” and has covering dates 1953-73. There are relatively few drawings. Items of interest:

• Informal design guidelines (agreed by MOT and ARTSM and circulated to ARTSM’s membership) for the direction signs shown in 1957 Regulations for which dimensioning information was not also given. • An essay by the GLC on the problems of implementing Worboys signs in Greater London (road numbers not allowed on local direction signs, and many places in London double as primary route destinations and destinations for which local signing must be provided. Problem of how to combine primary and local information on signs and what the colors should be if this is done. Apparently not resolved until Guildford rules). • Negotiations with DREs about the destinations that can be shown on signs; how to indicate distances to towns off the line of the route being followed but which are reached by unclassified roads, thus giving no route number to put in brackets; pointings-up of inadequacy of “green book” (circular on design of directional informatory signs) advice; etc.

MT 95/992

This file deals with preparation of the Traffic Signs Manual (1967 looseleaf version) and is mostly correspondence. It, however, includes typewritten drafts of the Motorway Signs chapter (Chapter 6) and comments thereon from chief constables and the motoring organizations. There are also requests for copies of the manual from as far away as Trinidad and within the ECMT (European Conference of Ministers of Transport), it having become recognized within the civil engineering community as a Work of Art.

MT 95/8

This file has covering dates 1948-50 and deals largely with provision of new traffic signs on the London-Folkestone-Dover trunk road (A20) which were designed to discourage rat-running. The MOT civil servant who appears to have had principal responsibility for this project was BM Cobbe (HQ), although he had to liase with the DRE/Metro and DRE/SE and the London local authorities who were to provide part of the signing. The signs were done only loosely to prevailing regs (apparently it was contemplated that most of this would be done on special authorization), and had the following features:

• Primary route destinations (London, Dover) distinguished from others by appearing against a sea-green background rather than white. Signs to have a yellow background overall (“surround”) unless they were local direction signs. • Blue surround to be used for local direction signs. • Individual signing to be provided for the docks in the Dover area, with bilingual legend (some of it misspelled—e.g., “WEST DOCKS/BASSINS DE L’OEST”). (It is the sketches on Cobbe’s end which show the bilingual signs, but not 100% sure these were actually installed.)

The file is actually in two parts, with the first part containing mostly textual material, while the second part contains largely visual material (including catalogues published by several traffic sign manufacturers). The MOT asked for tenders from several manufacturers but only the Royal Label Factory (discussed in another file looked at, by Hadfield) showed any interest. Much of the first, textual file is taken up with internal MOT and MOT-RLF correspondence covering the MOT’s business relationship with the RLF. On the RLF end, there are many pencil sketches, some in color, showing the proposed signs to be fabricated (MOT approval sought before materials committed). But there is also correspondence between the MOT and other organizations, including the French and Belgian port administrations and the (British) motoring organizations, seeking their views on the signing being provided. In about 1949/50 the signing project appears to have been adopted as a personal project by the Minister (Alfred Barnes) and he made a number of specific suggestions WRT signs and their location which his civil servants took seriously.

The sketches include a rubbing taken from an actual sign with reflectors in the road number (B2608, Canterbury).

The second part of the file contains material of these general types:

• One photograph of a sign with raised lettering and externally illuminated red regulatory disc, produced by Franco, apparently sent to MOT as sample of its work. • Sketch drawings by MOT indicating dimensions and layout of the signs desired, and sketch plans showing where on the route and within built-up areas the MOT wanted the signs to be located. (There is just one pattern-accurate typical drawing, showing “FOLKESTONE/DOVER” in white against green in black-bordered panel; this is a typical panel drawing. In the actual sign layout diagrams, the panels are referenced by letter codes, and a code key is provided which relates each letter code to the legend that has to go in the corresponding panel. The legend is not shown in pattern-accurate fashion. Very rough layout diagrams are provided for diagrammatic signs, with letter codes also substituted for the legend. The overall concept is very much like a combination of Kansas and Caltrans signing plans in that all of the sign elements, except for the “Folkestone/Dover” exemplar panel, are shown only as sketches, and the drawings substitute letter codes for crucial elements such as the panels.) • Catalogues from RLF and at least one other sign company. • July 1949 issue of The New Outlook on Motoring, published for Morris owners: pp. 18 ff. has a photo-illustrated blurb on the London-Dover re-signing project, with photographs of the signs being fabricated. Apparently the general idea was to use black fill, white reflectors for all letters regardless of background color (white or green), and provision of bilingual signing was fairly thoroughgoing. There were BoW rectangular signs reading “TENEZ LA GAUCHE/LINKS FAHREN” (similar to the current signs one sees immediately after pulling off the ferry) and also signs to “HARBOUR/(QUAI)” and “MARINE STN./(GARE MARITIME),” etc. It seems that, as fabricated, all of the signs (except “TENEZ LA GAUCHE” etc) had the French in smaller lettering and in parentheses. The article also explains (contrary to an impression of my own) that both the A2 London-Dover (direct) and A20 London-Folkestone-Dover (indirect) routes were being signed thus, and that the green labels were being used to keep both foreign and domestic drivers from straying off a London-Dover itinerary. Cost of the work was given as £4,000 overall, or £50/mile. • Many of the sketches indicate that the practice of using the “m” or “M” abbreviation to indicate “miles” predates both the Worboys and Anderson committees. A typical legend (on confirmatory signs only, I think) might be like this:

A20 LONDON 50M

“A20” being much taller than “LONDON” and “50,” and “M” being about the size of a small cap WRT “50.”

MT 95/200

This file has covering dates 1958-61 and deals with proposals for a sign or signs on the A4 to guide traffic up to the Chiswick Flyover, the relevant portion of which opened on September 30 1959. Cobbe, Riach, and Usborne were big players in this debate, with the Permanent Secretary having a walk-on role. The discussion appears to have evolved as follows:

• Initial proposals called for a diagrammatic “split” sign (same style as 1957 Regs), BoW, identifying the different destinations reached by the surface route and the flyover, on different arms of the “split” symbol. The plans envelope at back contains many conceptual drawings of signs in the 1957 Regulations style which would have been used at Chiswick. • After some discussion, it was decided an overhead gantry sign would be necessary, and also initially proposed that this should have uppercase letters only, in the classic MOT font (!). This would have been an overhead extension of the 1957 Regs style. As home-brewed gantry designs were not available, it was proposed to use the California standard plans as discussed in an article in California Highways and Public Works Nov-Dec 1958. The sign layouts also appear to have been heavily influenced by the California example as well, calling for signs of roughly the same aspect ratios and empty space content, and ultimately, use of mixed-case lettering. • It was felt desirable that mixed-case lettering should be used, but no alphabet, apparently, was available, since Kinneir’s motorway typefaces could be used only in negative contrast. The MOT (Riach), however, found out that Kinneir had developed a heavier-weight version of those alphabets (what we know now as Transport Heavy and Motorway Temporary) for the British Transport Commission, and also obtained a release from Kinneir allowing MOT to use them for Chiswick flyover signs only. Further conceptual designs were developed using the new Kinneir font. • Arguments shifted toward using negative contrast again, to be consistent with the Adams signs being used on motorway-standard D2APs. By this time, however, it was 1960, the Chiswick flyover had opened with ground-mounted signs to 1957 regs (apparently), and the overhead sign whose installation had been proposed would need to be replaced with a conventional motorway overhead sign within 2 years. Plus, apparently the Landscape Committee had objected to the gantry sign designs used on the LBM (an issue covered in another file, dealing with Kerensky’s standard designs done for MOT) and, although it is not clear that they had any standing on a London/urban project such as the Chiswick flyover and some civil servants were in favor of ignoring them and putting up the sign on traffic grounds alone, it was agreed that the white-background OH sign versions were likely to be excessively conspicuous and unpopular for that reason, and an Adams sign would also need quick replacement, so it was decided to ignore the problem for two years and allow the motorway sign to go up de novo, and avoid abortive expenditure.

This file is very valuable—MANY pattern-accurate illustrations in plans envelope.

MT 95/915

This file belongs among the traffic sign authorizations but is concerned mainly with the E-route signing issue. Covering dates are 1965 (approximately) to 1973. It’s a correspondence file mostly, with only a few drafts of proposed standards for E-routes and a signing proposal which was apparently pushed by the Germans at the ECMT in the very early 1970’s. The basic position is this:

• Someone in the ECMT wanted to systematize E-route signing—prescribe dimensions of E-route cartouches and so on. The UK wouldn’t wear it because the proposed design rules clashed with Worboys spacing rules and would not have allowed the E-route to be used next to the national route number on route confirmatory signs. Apparently this was an ECE directive (?) which would have become part of the Euroroute treaty. • UK basically waffled on the issue of signing E-routes (which was handled by GPH mostly, until fairly late in the day) before opposition to the idea solidified among TE and RST (Road Safety Traffic) permanent staff. They pushed for minimum fulfilment of the UK’s commitment to sign E-routes, suggested that the UK position be reserved if more onerous obligations were sought, and said that the UK should resist any trend toward specific design rules, the ones being specified being far more detailed than is usual for an international agreement. Ultimately TE/RST got their way and no requirement to sign Euroroutes was imposed on the UK.