Motorway Roadworks Survey 2007

UK's motorway repair teams lead in Europe's fast lane

25 September 2007

Press Information: Strictly embargoed until 00.01 on 26 September 2007

motorway roadworks in Halle-Saale, Germany - AA eurotest survey 2007 Motorway roadworks in the UK remain the safest and best managed in Europe, according to this year's AA survey of how well major highway repairs are organised in 11 countries across the Continent.

A three-kilometre stretch on the M25, during the refurbishment of Holmesdale Tunnel near Enfield, narrowly missed out on Europe's top accolade, pipped into second place by a roadworks site in Austria. However, a tally of six UK sites rated one very good, four good and one acceptable, earning Britain the top slot.

The high quality of the Holmesdale Tunnel operation is reflected in Highways Agency statistics showing that, in 1.7 million hours of work along that section, there was not a single reportable accident.

  • In Switzerland, shortly after the survey programme was completed, three night-time road workers were killed by a drunk driver in an unprotected zone near Lucerne.
  • During 2006, two road workers were killed and 19 seriously injured in the UK while working on Highways Agency roads.

Of the 50 sets of motorway roadworks across Europe, inspected by traffic experts from the University of Dresden in May and April 2007, only three earned a "very good" rating: the Holmesdale Tunnel stretch, an Austrian site on the A1 near Enns, and a Dutch site on the A27 near Vianen. Last year, a site on the M1 near Hemel Hempstead was rated Europe's best, helped by advanced information leading to the site.

UK survey results

The survey in the UK (carried out by the Eurotest consortium of which the AA is a leading member) resulted in the ratings:

  • M25 (Enfield) – very good
  • M1 (Luton) – good
  • M1 (Luton, night-time) – good
  • M1 (Rotherham) – good
  • M25 (Enfield, night-time) – good
  • M1 (Rotherham, night-time) – acceptable

Europe-wide results

Across Europe, the survey of 50 sites in Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Spain, France, Croatia, Italy, Holland, Slovenia and the UK, found that;

  • 3 were rated very good,
  • 17 were rated good,
  • 17 were rated acceptable,
  • 11 were rated poor, and
  • 2 were rated very poor.

The UK's score of 83 per cent of sites rated good or very good compares with the European average of 40 per cent.

A 24-hour free-tow breakdown service, well-signed speed cameras, traffic lanes that are wide, well-marked and in good condition, and clearly visible signs are features in UK roadworks that won praise from the inspectors.

However, the standard of information in the approach to and throughout roadworks led to two of the six sites being rated very poor. The inspectors look for signs that inform motorists about the type of work, the reason for it, the length and duration, and the distance to the end of the site.

The uniquely British practice of re-organising sites after the evening rush-hour to allow more extensive work at night when traffic is lighter was reflected in separate inspections for each of the UK sites. The roadworks rating dropped by one level at night in two of the three zones while the M1 site near Luton remained "good". None of the night-time works dropped below "acceptable".

AA comment

"UK drivers loathe motorway roadworks but they are an unfortunate fact of life. At least we can take some comfort that, when we carry them out, we manage traffic and safety better than our European neighbours despite having some of the heaviest traffic. There is no room for complacency however and so the Highways Agency needs to keep improving control of and techniques at roadwork sites," says Paul Watters, head of AA Public Affairs.

"As drivers we also need to look at how we can make things easier for ourselves - in research 90 per cent of drivers faced with roadworks on their normal route chose to accept the risk of delay and press on. Pre-planning can make a real difference and variable message signs can help provide updated driver information en-route."

Download a pdf version of the full report

Call for improvements

The AA believes that there are four improvements to roadworks practices that should be considered:

  1. Varying speed limits to match prevailing conditions, such as when work stops at weekends or overnight.
  2. There are no statistics kept on damage-only accidents in roadworks sites. The Highways Agency should research these to see if there are any common themes.
  3. Drivers feel more secure and the risk of cross-over accidents is greatly reduced by the use of solid barriers to separate oncoming traffic. The Highways Agency should look at their use in other European countries and consider whether greater use would be beneficial.
  4. Innovative concepts that work in other parts of Europe should be trialled in the UK. These include: Austria's sad-to-smiley faces that indicate the remaining length of a roadworks stretch and the Belgium's flag-waving mannequin that encourages drivers to slow down before entering a set of roadworks.
  5. More widespread use of sequential flashing lights along the approach to roadworks, especially where changes of direction are needed or where the number of lanes reduces.

UK roadworks sites - results by test category

M25 Holmesdale Tunnel, near Enfield (daytime)


Rating: very good , length: 2.7 km

  • Signing/roadmarkings: poor
  • Traffic routing: very good
  • Safety features: very good
  • Safe driving features: good
  • Night-time working: n/a
  • Information: very good

M25 Holmesdale Tunnel, near Enfield (night)


Rating: good , length: 3 km

  • Signing/roadmarkings: poor
  • Traffic routing: good
  • Safety features: very good
  • Safe driving features: good
  • Night-time working: good
  • Information: very poor

M1 near Luton (daytime)


Rating: good, length: 13.6 km

  • Signing/roadmarkings: acceptable
  • Traffic routing: very good
  • Safety features: very good
  • Safe driving features: acceptable
  • Night-time working: n/a
  • Information: good

M1 near Luton (night)


Rating: good, length: 11.0 km

  • Signing/roadmarkings: very poor
  • Traffic routing: good
  • Safety features: very good
  • Safe driving features: very good
  • Night-time working: very good
  • Information: poor

M1 near Rotherham (daytime)


Rating: good, length: 3.1 km

  • Signing/roadmarkings: good
  • Traffic routing: good
  • Safety features: very good
  • Safe driving features: very poor
  • Night-time working: n/a
  • Information: very poor

M1 near Rotherham (night)


Rating: acceptable, length: 4.4 km

  • Signing/roadmarkings: poor
  • Traffic routing: good
  • Safety features: very good
  • Safe driving features: acceptable
  • Night-time working: very good
  • Information: very poor
 

25 September 2007