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Anderson report

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Anderson Report
Proposed Anderson Report Motorway Symbol.svg
The motorway symbol proposed by the report.
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The Anderson report is a colloquial name used by SABRE to describe the documents related to early motorway sign design produced by a committee headed by Sir Colin Anderson during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Its official title is Motorway Signs: Final Report of Advisory Committee for Traffic Signs on Motorways. In terms of British signs, the Committee's input was revolutionary and many of their findings were later partially incorporated by the Worboys Committee when practices for signing all-purpose roads were overhauled.

The Preston Bypass

The first section of the M6, the Preston Bypass, opened in 1958 and needed new direction signs. At this point, no real detailed consideration had been given for signing grade separated junctions, although the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 1957 did feature an example sign showing a slip-road passing over or under a main carriageway. This arrangement was considered unsatisfactory for clarity and understanding at speeds of 70 mph.

Preston Bypass Entrance.jpg

An interim report was produced by the Anderson Committee detailing experimental traffic signs to be used at Preston.

Signs were designed with x-heights of 12 inches, lower case lettering, and using reflective lettering on a dark blue background. Illumination was floodlighting mounted beneath the signs, but the supports were somewhat crude, being made out of tubular steel and looking remarkably like scaffolding. The Anderson Report suggested that tapered concrete columns would be far more suited to housing the new larger signs and by the time the M1 had opened this was the standard procedure. The most notable feature of the direction signs was the angled 'fork', which has given these signs the affectionate nickname of wonky signs.

Experimental Preston Bypass symbol

The bypass featured a unique design of motorway symbol, chosen over the internationally accepted version on the basis that the elongated symbol used in Europe was considered unsightly, particularly when 'cancelled out' with a red bar. The debate about the motorway symbol would finally be resolved in the late 1960s with experimental NO Signs featuring a revised version of the international symbol.

Interestingly, the original experimental signs on the approaches to the motorway were on a white background using blue panels to denote the motorway route. This was later considered unsatisfactory and all blue signs were used instead. By 1965, panels were back in business. These early quirks of motorway signing had quite a few debates generated in the corridors of power!

Such debates also introduced countdown markers for an exit slip road. Initially, these were triangular with horizontal white bars. This arrangement was deemed unsatisfactory as it clashed with the roadside marker posts.

At both ends of the bypass, traffic leaving the motorway was warned of the change back to ordinary roads by a large red circular sign stating "End of motorway". These only ever existed at Preston and were lost when extensions followed in 1963 and 1965.

1959-65: Further Experiments

The Committee did not issue their final report until December 1960, by which time the M1 had been open for a year. Additional motorways were now in service, notably the M6 Lancaster Bypass, A1(M) Doncaster Bypass, and parts of the M50 Ross Motorway. Traffic signs were modified in light of experience gained at Preston, although signs on the M1 featured a number of unique experiments that were not used on other motorways.

The report suggested that route confirmatory signs in the central reservation displaying the route number on its own should be placed after every merge, but it also suggested that they could be acceptably placed at regular intervals of five miles. This recommendation was never carried forward and today it is extremely rare to find a standalone route number sign on a motorway.

Consideration was given to temporary signs at roadworks and emergencies. The first references to motorway contraflows can be found within this report, although in practice contraflows did not really see regular use until the early 1970s. The "road clear" sign recommended in the report lasted until 1975. Emergency situations such as 'fog' and 'ice' saw triangular warning signs provided as an early attempt at mirroring continental practice.

Motorway to motorway junctions introduced the "Y" shaped map symbol to denote equal importance between routes. At the time the report was written, gantry signs were considered to be required only on urban motorways although the report had reluctantly agreed to the provision of a bridge mounted sign at the split between the M1 and M45 - this sign, albeit a modern replacement, lasted until the conversion of this section of M1 to smart motorway. Junction 7 on the M1, where there used to be a lane drop for the former M10, later received a gantry that was subject of research and debate. The experience of this particular junction, being a lane drop, brought about further improvements to overhead signs which were eventually incorporated into the 1975 Regulations.

The point of divergence featured the first use of butterfly signs to direct traffic onto the correct route. Such a type of sign, albeit a modern equivalent, survived at the M45 split well until the mid-2000s when it was eventually destroyed in a vehicle collision.

The southbound merge from the M45 also introduced the first 'tiger-tail' merge where merging streams were divided into two separate lanes. A large red sign was introduced to emphasise the merge point, although the design of the arrowhead took a few design revisions before a satisfactory option was developed.

M6 near Preston, England 1966 - Flickr - 26182441.jpg

Traffic signs for service areas were introduced using distinct symbols, the basic concept still survives today although moves are in place to introduce corporate branding to replace the 1960s era symbols. The exit to a service area introduced the 'End of motorway regulations' sign as this would alert drivers to the fact they were still in the confines of the motorway but in an area where they could legally park. The report had considered using the cancellation sign with a red bar through the motorway symbol but due to the disagreements over the design this never happened.

A final sign was used for the temporary terminus of the M1 at Crick, this was a modified version of the 1957 'road narrows' sign. The northern terminus simply narrowed from three to two lanes as the motorway headed down the slip road to the A5.

The last motorway to open using signs to the specifications laid out in the report was the M6 between junctions 32 and 33. It opened in January 1965, just before the 1964 Regulations came into force. This featured many of the recommendations given that the 13 mile length of road featured a lane drop, works unit, and a service area.

The southbound gantry structure at Broughton, shown left, was only removed in the early 2000s although the Anderson signs had long since been replaced. It was here where the last surviving motorway sign remained within the interchange (see below).

Hypothetical Situations


The report considered the emergence of cloverleaves as a popular junction type on motorways. As there would be a number of issues with traffic entering before traffic exits, the report introduced a design detailing a 'double fork' for use on the approaches to such junctions.

As a true cloverleaf interchange was never constructed on any motorway in the UK, these signs never saw use for their intended purpose, and the 'double fork' sign was eventually re-used for junctions in quick succession, this first appeared in the 1975 Regulations.

The report also showed a combined route confirmation sign with motorway number and corresponding European E road number. These were never adopted, although E-route confirmation markers featured in both the 1975 and 1981 Regulations.

Surviving Examples

Pre-Warboys sign Dual Carriageway & Old style M6 Sign - Coppermine - 229.jpg

The last known surviving Anderson-era sign on a motorway, a "motorways merge" sign, was removed from the southbound M6 at Junction 32 in 2003. It is believed the last surviving advance direction sign had been on the M4 Slough Bypass, but was removed in the early 1990s.

It is possible that examples in service areas lasted longer than those on motorway mainlines but no evidence has yet come to light.

An advance direction sign pointing to the M6 used to exist on the A57 near Warrington but this was removed in the mid-2000s. It is possible that this was the last remaining example of an 'Anderson' era sign anywhere in the United Kingdom, but again this claim has not been verified.


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No Sign Anderson.jpgPre-Warboys sign Dual Carriageway & Old style M6 Sign - Coppermine - 229.jpgUk symbol 2.gifEuro symbol.gifUk symbol.gif
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