55/60mph speed limit through roadworks (trial reports)

Roadworks are an integral part of how we improve our roads for our customers and we know that they can be a frustration. We are committed to improving the experience of our customers while ensuring that safety is never compromised. So we committed to testing the potential for higher speed limits where they could be safely implemented, through a series of trials.

Before on-road trials, simulations were carried out which were used to help understand how drivers react to this temporary speed limit. The testing showed no adverse effects. This led to on-road trials of a 60mph limit through roadworks on the M1, A1 and M5. The safety of road workers and road users was monitored, along with surveys investigating customer satisfaction with the speed limit increase.

On this page we have published the set of reports by which we evaluated the trials.

Summary of findings of 60mph through roadworks

The following 60mph through roadworks summary report is our combined summary of all final reports prepared by the independent experts we employed, together with our response to their recommendations.

Reports

The following are the final independent reports prepared by TRL and WSP (Mouchel).

Final report from TRL which included the simulator, monitoring and evaluation, and stakeholder reports:

Simulator Reports prepared by TRL

Two simulator trials carried out with the primary aim to understand the likely impact of the alternative speed limits on safety and customer satisfaction.

Monitoring and evaluation Reports for the M1, A1 and M5 prepared by TRL

Three on-road trials of 60mph carried out at 3 locations, the first being the M1 junction 32-35a scheme in late 2016, the second at the A1 Leeming to Barton scheme during the Christmas period in 2016/17 and third at the M5 junction 4a-6 scheme in Spring 2017.

Stakeholder Reports for the M1, A1 and M5 prepared by TRL

Following on-road trials, surveys were carried out with road users to understand the impact of the 60mph speed limit on customer satisfaction and safety road worker. These were carried out at motorway service areas close to the trial and/or through surveys with local business parks, to understand what impact the 60mph speed limit had on driver speed choice, close following behaviour and the number of breakdowns and road traffic collisions.

They also included engagement with key stakeholders from the police, Highways England traffic officers, free recovery and representatives from the project itself with the aim to seek feedback on the trial findings, and to obtain views and perceptions on the 60mph speed limit in order to understand the ways in which it impacted on worker safety and operations.

60mph through Roadworks Risk Assessment prepared by WSP (Mouchel)

Final report from WSP (Mouchel) outlining the risk assessment process to ensure that the safety of road workers and road users was not compromised during the on-road trials.

Customer experience of changes in speed limits

Improving the road network inevitably means more roadworks, so engagement with our customers is vital to understand how we could mitigate impacts. Highways England developed additional insight to help find a solution to customer dissatisfaction around roadworks speed limits. This included a diverse range of innovative research technologies including:

  • geo-triggered surveys
  • dashboard cameras
  • pulse scanners
  • journey diaries

Due to the personal nature of this data, we provide a summary here.

On the M5 J4a-6 trial, 36 participants were provided with dash cams and watches that incorporated heart rate monitors and GPS trackers, to capture visual and physiological responses through each journey.

All participants were required to complete a minimum of two journeys, with each journey encompassing the varying speed limits. This provided comparable data for 50mph and 60mph speeds.

Post journey activities included focus group sessions, replay of dash cam footage, individual interviews and postcard feedback.

Our findings were that:

  • the majority of participants indicated they preferred the higher of the speed limits – notable reasons included the ability to safely pass HGVs at these higher speed limits
  • 60% of participants recorded a decrease in average heart rate in the 60mph trial zone
  • the heart rate (and therefore potentially stress) does not increase with an increased speed limit
  • perceptions were that vehicles were more spaced out, there was an improved flow of traffic and it was easier to maintain the speed limit
  • analysis of the qualitative data reinforced the view that HGVs are a significant contributing factor for driver experience on motorways, especially within roadworks, as fear was heightened while travelling through roadworks – the size, number, speed of HGVs and the inability to overtake HGVs was problematic

The research provides an example of how innovation in insight can open up a unique understanding of behaviours and help drive improvements to safety and customer experience.

As a result of the success of combining in-the-moment insight with heart rate monitoring, in future we will be expanding the use of this methodology to include facial recognition and implicit response times to improve safety and the customer experience.