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Chapter 1: The motorway programme: planning and engineering

This chapter is designed to provide an overview of the central role of the Ministry of Transport and its successors (the Department) in the development of best practice for application in the motorway programme. As such, it provides a technical introduction to the rest of this volume, covering the principle activities involved in taking a motorway scheme from inception to construction. The range of activities and processes are those that have to be negotiated by the planners and initial stage designers before the scheme can be handed over to the pavement and bridge designers for the completion of the detail necessary to specify precisely what the contractor is being asked to construct.

The chapter is presented in two parts. The first part deals with the procedures and legal processes that have to be gone through before the detailed design can start and the working drawings prepared that will be used when inviting contractors to tender for the work and for the successful tenderer to construct the scheme. It also deals with the tendering process and explains some of the policy considerations that interacted with planning and design, including their impact on the structure and efficiency of the construction industry.

The second part of the chapter deals with engineering practice and the preparation of Departmental standards. It covers the development of road engineering practice through the motorway years, when the knowledge base grew from a low level to its present day commanding position of authority and respect. The growth in the knowledge base will be shown to have affected all stages from planning through design to construction.

The compiler of this chapter, Maurice Maggs, has drawn on his experience in the Department, in Engineering Intelligence, Bridges Engineering, Construction Units Engineering and Traffic Engineering Divisions. Further invaluable contributions from Ron Bridle, a former Chief Highway Engineer, Bryan Edbrooke, a former Deputy Chief Highway Engineer, and Stan Salt, formerly Superintending Engineer in the South East Road Construction Unit, are gratefully acknowledged.

Any reader who is interested in examining contemporary accounts might begin by consulting the proceedings of a conference organised by ICE in 1971 that was entitled ‘Motorways in Britain - Today and tomorrow’. Leonard Mills, Deputy Director General (Highways) in the Department and Bryan Edbrooke contributed papers that are particularly relevant on ‘Motorway administration’ and ‘Motorway planning’ respectively.

The following subjects are covered in the printed document (Volume 2):


The National strategic road network
The preparation pool
The planning brief
The preliminary report
The preliminary report
Examination of the preliminary report at HQ
The firm programme report
Construction Units Engineering Division (CUE)
Construction Units Administration Division (CUA)
Statutory procedures and orders
Estimating the cost
The sequencing of construction
Contract action


The background
Engineering Intelligence Division
Traffic Engineering Division