A bold new approach to roadworks


13 Jul 2022

A bold new approach to roadworks

Two years ago, we increased the speed limit past many major roadwork schemes, where safe, from 50mph to 60mph. We did this in response to feedback from road users voicing their frustration over the time spent travelling through work sites.

Evidence from trial schemes showed that this 'highest safe speed' approach cut journey times. Drivers were also more likely to comply with the new limits.

Now we want to cut prolonged disruption from roadworks with a new plan to fast track upgrades of England’s busiest roads.

We'll close roads completely if it means we can do our work quicker and cut overall disruption. In some cases, this means building more structures offsite and then lifting them onto the network.

This can save months, even years of inconvenience that partial closures can cause. It will:

  • save taxpayer money
  • reduce the impact on local communities and drivers
  • lead to lower carbon emissions from construction equipment
  • reduce the risks to our workers' safety

We'll consult local communities before any full closures. We'll consider appropriate diversion routes and the impact on homes, businesses, hospitals and nearby events before making decisions.

Road projects

Using full road closures to complete major road schemes supports the vision set out by 'Project Speed'. This is the government initiative, announced in summer 2020, to speed up work on infrastructure projects and stimulate the economy in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

For example, we're building a new bridge over the M42 as part of the HS2 rail scheme.

By installing the new bridge through two week long closures (over Christmas 2021 and 2022 when traffic is lightest), we can avoid the 18 months of disruption conventional methods would bring.

Maintenance activities

When we do maintenance work, we can get the maximum benefit out of road closures if we tackle as many jobs as we can on the same stretch of road - at the same time.

For example, combining maintenance works between M53 junctions resulted in:

  • 5,000 less hours that our workforce had to be exposed to moving traffic

  • 10 fewer times that we had to cone lanes or use traffic management

Other measures

Increasing full closures is part of a package of measures designed to cut the disruption of roadworks. We're also considering:

  • expanding the 'highest safe speed' approach to roadworks
  • improved diversion signs and information for road users
  • improved roadside communication to drivers
  • decluttering work sites and roadsides
  • more ways for you to report problems on our roads

Details are set out in our updated Delivery Plan for 2022/23, published today alongside our Annual report and Accounts. You can find both documents on our corporate publications page.