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Last edited 07 Apr 2021
Road development process
 Road improvement scheme: phases of development
The design phase may be sub-divided in to two or three sub-phases:
 Identifying the problem and possible solutions
As a first step, a highway authority would usually identify a safety or capacity related problem on its road network and investigate potential solutions. A well-functioning road should provide safe and reliable journeys, and contribute to the growth of a successful economy.
In highlighting a successful objective for undertaking a road improvement scheme, and using the strategic road network (SRN) as an example, the SRN must facilitate the efficient movement of people and goods.
For the SRN, if investigations highlight that there is a safety or capacity related problem, the Department for Transport (DfT) Circular 02/2013 explains that development proposals are likely to be acceptable if:
- They can be accommodated within the existing capacity of a section (link or junction) of the strategic road network; or
- They do not increase demand for use of a section that is already operating at over-capacity levels.
 Concept / feasibility studies and consultation
In preparing a concept design for a major development, the highway engineer would address the practicalities of cost effective access for all modes of travel, assessment of the suitability of the existing infrastructure, the parking and servicing arrangements and the detailed design of on and off-site civil engineering works.
Feasibility studies involve both a desktop and a site visit, address the key fundamentals of access and access constraints. Investigations will also take place as to the current lawful use of the site and its present potential for generating traffic.
After choosing the preferred scheme, a preliminary design and estimate would be prepared. This is often carried out by a consultant who independently prepares the preliminary design to enable a decision to be taken on where the road should be located within the preferred route envelope. This design will include topographical, environmental and geographical surveys.
 Planning and legislation
Road improvement schemes must comply with the planning procedures that apply in the country in which they are located. For the Strategic Road Network, Highways England has produced a guide to working with them on planning matters - Planning for the Future (2015).
The guidance document describes the approach Highways England take to engaging in the planning system and the issues they look at when considering draft planning documents and planning applications. It offers advice on the information they would like to see included in a planning proposal, and outlines the support they can offer.
It is a useful aide for local authorities, developers, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), community groups and others involved in plan-making, development management, development promotion or decision-taking in respect of land close to any part of the Strategic Road Network (SRN).
 Planning Act 2008 procedures
If the cost of the scheme is above the current threshold of £200 million for a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIG), its implementation will come under the provision of the Planning Act 2008. For further information on the National Infrastructure Planning process, visit the National Infrastructure Planning website, which includes information and resources on this process, and advice on legislation.
If the cost of the road improvement scheme is below the current £200 million threshold, a Planning Act 2008 draft development order is not needed, and you should refer to the Highways Act 1980. An Environmental Impact Assessment will be required for all road schemes. For Special Roads, the official classification of motorways, a draft order may need to be published and you should refer to the Highways Act 1980.
Once these procedures have been followed and fully considered, a decision would then be taken on whether to proceed. Local authorities can agree to grant themselves planning permission for local roads. If the scheme is an NSIG however, the Secretary of State can call for a process of public inquiry.
 Detailed design and preparation of contract documents
- Produce further detailed topographical, geological and geotechnical surveys.
- Produce detailed design of bridges/structures, drainage, earthworks and pavement.
- Consider health and safety and factor this into the detailed design.
 Hand over to client, road opens and maintenance period begins
Once the construction phase is complete, the road is then handed over to the client authority for use by traffic. The contract then enters the maintenance period, where the contractor remains responsible for the road structure.
As a result of the final inspection prior to handover, there are usually minor problems identified, which the contractor must correct, or pay to correct. The work undertaken by the contractor during the maintenance period is separate from normal road maintenance activities.
The Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB) contains information about current standards, advice notes and other published documents relating to the design, assessment and operation of trunk roads, including motorways. The DMRB has been prepared for trunk roads and motorways.
The Manual of Contract Documents for Highway Works contains the primary documents required for the preparation of contracts for trunk road works. It consists of several parts, including the administrative procedures for its use, the specification for highway works and the corresponding method measurements.
Interim Advice Notes (IANs) issued by Highways England contain specific guidance, which should only be used in connection with works on motorways and trunk roads in England, subject to any specific implementation instructions contained within an IAN. IANs are not part of the DMRB and the MCHW but must be read in conjunction. They may incorporate amendments or additions to documents in these manuals.
Eurocodes - As a public body, Highways England expresses its requirements for the design and modification of existing structures (including geotechnical works) in terms of Eurocodes. Highways England’s technical experts were involved in the drafting of the Eurocodes and the National Annexes.
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