Highway Design

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Highways in the United Kingdom are designed in compliance with a comprehensive set of documents known collective as the Standards for Highways. These include the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB), the Manual of Contract Documents for Highway Works (MCHW), and Interim Advice Notes IANs). These documents are developed on behalf of the overseeing organisations of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales: respectively, the Highways England, DfI Roads, Transport Scotland, and the Welsh Government.

Design Manual for Roads and Bridges

The Design Manual for Roads and Bridges was introduced in England and Wales in 1992 and subsequently in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The manual is a collection of 15 volumes covering all aspects of highway design, including structures, geotechnics, drainage, geometry, pavement design, traffic signs & lighting, traffic control & communications, environmental design & assessment, traffic appraisal and economic assessment.

The full manual is available online, free of charge, with several updates each year.

Manual of Contract Documents for Highway Works

The MCHW, first published in 1992, consists of several parts which include the administrative procedures for its use, the Specification for Highway Works and its corresponding Method Measurement. The Manual incorporates the requirements of the European Commission which are mandatory for all Public Procurement Bodies.

Interim Advice Notes (IANs)

Interim Advice Notes (IANs) are issued by the Highways England from time to time. They contain specific Guidance, which shall only be used in connection with works on motorways and trunk roads in England, subject to any specific implementation instructions contained within an IAN. Whilst IANs must be read in conjunction with the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB) and Manual of Contract Documents for Highway Works (MCHW) for the above works, and may incorporate amendments or additions to documents in these manuals, they are not part of the DMRB or MCHW

Department for Transport - other information

Traffic Advisory Leaflets

These are brief documents, sometimes no more than a double A4 sided advice note on the application of traffic and transportation working practice. Information covers many aspects including traffic calming, public transport, non motorised users and Intelligent Transport Systems

Roads circulars

For many years the DfT's predecessors issued a series of circulars entitled Roads to provide advice and guidance on roads and traffic matters to local authorities. The Department no longer produces new circulars in this series. Advice on roads and traffic matters is now issued in various forms according to the nature of the advice and the audience, including Traffic Advisory Leaflets (TAL), Local Transport Notes (LTN) and Highways England Manuals.

Local Transport Notes

A more recent method of collecting together information on design issues into a single simple document. Local Transport Notes cover many aspects including pedestrian crossings, traffic calming, traffic signals, streetscape, cycling and public transport.

Highway design software

The design of highways is generally done using a software product called AutoCAD. In its most simple form AutoCAD is a glorified 2D drawing package for drafting electronic plans. More advanced uses of AutoCAD are limited in the highway design office, with UK specific design tools such as PDS and MXROADS being used on larger schemes to electronically design three diamensional "strings" which are used for the design of surface drainage, carriageway horizontal and vertical alignment and ultimately, setting out on site.

Software products are available for use in most aspects of highway design, including geometry, vehicle swept path, network management, traffic signs, street lighting, traffic signals, road markings, drainage and structures. Most software works from within AutoCAD, but some, specifically MXROADS operates within its own software environment and provides tools to import design data into AutoCAD and other CAD software.


Department for Transport

Highways England

Highway design software

Original Author(s): Haydn1971

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