Roy Lanchester

Roy Lanchester on safe road design

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Well-oiled car journalist turned blogger ROY LANCHESTER looks into how roads are designed

RoyLanchester14How often do you consider the design of our roads? If you’re anything like me, I’m willing to bet it’s something you never really consider, up there with other mundane, everyday things such as where your trousers are or which wine goes with the cereal.

Given how little attention one might normally give road layout design, you can understand what happened when an invitation to discover more about it arrived at Lanchester Towers. The precious envelope was almost lost under the usual piles of post and/or sick until, by some stroke of luck, I mistook it for a missive from my personal injury lawyer. The disappointment of seeing no cheque was soon replaced by excitement at an exciting opportunity to learn more about safe road design and have lunch.

You may not have heard of Drexion Solutions. I must admit I had not, even though it later turned out that I had once crashed into one of their vans. Drexion Solutions Limited are a private company based in Banbury specialising in road safety consultancy[1]. Their services are used by the Highways Agency in the safe design of new junctions, roundabouts and sliproads[2] and in the improvement of existing road layouts, as well as the phased introduction of new technologies such as safer road sign mountings and street illumination.[3] In the financial year 2013-14 they had a turnover of £236m.[4]  [edit]

Drexion kindly invited me to their test facility in Warwickshire to see what they do and serve. Since I was ‘between press cars’ and my own car is currently considered ‘evidence’, I was delighted when the Drexion PR man showed great initiative by agreeing to give in to my repeated requests for him to send a car to pick me up. I can think of a few public relations people who could learn from this first class service in return for a promise to stop calling him!

So it was that a Drexion-branded Ford Galaxy arrived at my door bright and early, ready to drive me to the Midlands. What a perfect vantage point from which to pay particular attention to the design of the junctions we passed on the way, I thought to myself as I slipped a bottle of travel brandy from my bag!

Some three hours later we arrived at the Drexion premises and while my driver went to clear up some of the mess that hadn’t made it out of the window, I was led into a large marquee erected beside a test track in which various things were on display. My quest to see if any these things might be red and in a glass was harshly interrupted by an Italian gentleman called Alessandro [RING THAT OTHER CHAP AND ASK FOR SURNAME] who told me he was Drexion’s chief engineer for lighting systems. What he was able to tell me about modern street light design was certainly illuminating (!) though I was saddened to see he took a dim (!) view of my affectionate tribute to both his accent and his nation’s role in the Second World War!

Shortly afterwards, it was announced that we would move to the other end of the large marquee where lunch would be served. I found it hard to conceal my disappointment that our hosts had failed to safely engineer a bottle of wine to arrive in front of me and I was forced to break into the emergency Merlot I’d brought with me as I chatted to Bob Yatley from The Shropshire Wasp who was his usual lugubrious self and full of the typical catchphrases such as ‘Jesus Christ, look at the bloody state of you!’ and ‘For God’s sake Lanchester, at least pour it into a glass!’ Such a character!

With a rather short but refreshing lunch dispensed with, we were invited outside to the test track where actual examples of junction design were waiting for us. Experience has told me that there is often a lot of waiting around at events like this and an intolerable amount of standing, so I was in no rush to leave the marquee and busied myself taking advantage of Drexion’s excellent decision to provide several free notebooks for journalists to take and eBay at their leisure. With that done, I made my way to a portable lavatory, thoughtfully positioned behind the marquee for our use.

When I awoke some time later the demonstration appeared to be over, perhaps on account of it having gone dark. I disregarded this minor convenience and strode forth into the darkness to find my carriage home. I must say, I only wish that the excellent people of Drexion had been able to safely design away the large ditch at the edge of the woodland the fringes their test facility. I’m sure with all their skills they would have been able to make it visible and not deep enough to accommodate an entire man until the next morning! I feel confident this is something they could do since I now know Drexion to be an excellent company and also  they are one of Britain’s foremost road design consultants and safety testing concerns.[citation needed] Refere

Roy Lanchester is motoring correspondent for Your Hats magazine and founder of the blog Over The Limit with Roy Lanchester.  (