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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 September 2006, 09:30 GMT 10:30 UK
UK roadworks 'the best in Europe'
The inspectors visited the motorway sites day and night
UK motorway roadworks are the best in Europe, the AA Motoring Trust has said.

The M42, near Birmingham, came top of a list of 53 European sites inspected on behalf the trust. But information for drivers at some sites was poor.

A spokesman for the AA Trust said British roadworks had improved "absolutely" since the bad days of the Cones Hotline in the early 1990s.

Roadworks sites in Italy, Spain, Croatia, and the Netherlands were rated as "poor" by inspectors.

British motorways are under immense pressure, representing 1% of the network but carrying 20% of the traffic.

Five sites in the UK were inspected for the report.

SPAIN: M6 nr Madrid
ITALY: E80 nr Rom-Trionfale
ITALY: A3 nr Eboli
CROATIA: A3 nr Novska
NETHERLANDS: A12 nr Utrecht

The evaluations were carried out by staff at the University of Dresden, on behalf of the Eurotest consortium, of which the AA Trust is a member. Inspectors used a BMW car loaded with surveillance equipment.

The M1 at Hemel Hempstead and M25 at Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, were also rated as "very good" in the report. The M5 near Clevedon, Bristol, and Taunton, Somerset, were rated as "good".

UK sites such as the M42 were praised for the 24-hour free tow-away service and permanent well-signed speed cameras. All sites were commended for the condition of traffic lane markings.

Smiling faces

But the independent inspectors were unhappy with amount of information given to drivers both on the approach to and through the roadworks.

They recommended eye-catching roadside information to persuade drivers to slow down and inform them of progress through a contraflow system, similar to the Austrian "sad-to-smiling" faces signs.

M42 nr Birmingham: Very good (Acceptable at night)
M1 nr Hemel Hempstead: Very good
M25 nr Cheshunt: Very good (good at night)
M5 nr Clevedon: Good
M5 nr Taunton: Good

The five sites were inspected during the day and, apart from the Taunton roadworks, again at night.

The M42, M1 and the M25 sites were rated "very good" during the day. Clevedon's day and night random checks received a "good" rating, as did Taunton's day inspection.

The Cheshunt night inspection yielded a "good" rating. And the M42 night inspection resulted in an "acceptable" rating.

Here are some of your comments:

Not so much a problem with roadworks as with roads in general here in Belgium. One really difficult adjustment to make is the extent to which aggressive / rude driving is seen as acceptable here. And as for the road signs... It seems pretty normal to put the sign for the turn off AT the turn off. Not much use when this is on a motorway and you're approaching at 120kmph. I would heartily recommend that no-one ever tries to navigate Brussels by using the road signs there. Especially as every road sign is a small essay...
SP, Londoner in Belgium

Were the investigators blind? - or were they simply looking at a road safety point of view? I have never once encountered a traffic jam due to roadworks in Spain, Germany, Belgium or the Netherlands. The motorway system in Spain and Germany is excellent despite having only 2 lanes. One only needs to visit parts of the north circular at 2.00 am in London to find severe traffic delays. I have stopped using the M1 because of the roadworks and now use the A1. Britain is in a mess.
John, London

If any inspector is searching for the worst roads in Europe among Italy, Spain, or the Netherlands, he or she should have a better look at the Greek motorway roads! (See the Korinth-Patras or the Athens-Salonica national "graveyards" for a good start!). I'm sure that the evaluation never included Greece.
Nikos, Athens, Greece

After 5 years living in Germany now, it was an absolute pleasure to drive through UK roadworks again on holiday a couple of weeks ago! German Autobahn roadworks are a nightmare. The lanes are sometimes so narrow, that I have to "use the force" when overtaking trucks order not to hit anything. There's literally just a few cms of space either side of the car. Apart from that, when it rains all of the lane markings become magically invisible, making the whole experience even more scary and dangerous.
Chris, Stuttgart, Germany

The worst stretch at the moment is the motorway A1 between Zurich and Bern, where the perfectly good centre and side barriers is being replaced by barriers conforming to EU standards which incidentally are an absolute death-trap for motorcyclists! If it isn't that, it's the breakdown lanes or noise dampening measures or whatever. This has been going on for YEARS, with only slight relief in the winter months. The companies employed must be making a fortune!
Frank Hesford, Waedenswil, Switzerland

It's not the state of the roadworks that we drivers are bothered about, it's the sheer amount of them. The Highways Agency seems to be digging up 20% of the roads.
Chris , Nuneaton, England

In most areas England still exhibits Third World road conditions - it's inexcusable in a country whose economy has perhaps the strongest growth rate in the entire EU.

Then again, most things about England smack of Third World standards...
Patrick Bateman, Marlow, UK

Recently, the authorities closed one of the main motorways in Holland and redirected all of the traffic down a B-road. The massive influx of traffic caused one of the bridges to start crumbling, leading to an emergency closure of the B-road as well. For two days, the southern half of the country was effectively isolated from the North, including Schiphol airport.

Still, at least the motorway works were essential - we now have a series of 'average speed' cameras installed.
Dave, The Hague, NL

E40-A4 Aachen-Cologne; for ten to twenty years now they have been working on this stretch and it's never finished; although lastly they seem to be making progress;

Andreas Fusswinkel, Cologne

What gets on my nerves is after roadworks have been completed the holes the contractors have dug are filled in then resurfaced but are always uneven to the existing tarmac resulting in bumps to the cars suspension....the local councils should inspect the works of the contractors and shed the cowboys!!
Tom, Greater Manchester

UK roadworks the best in Europe. You're having a laugh!? They are badly signed, done at the wrong time (shut a road overnight, but don't leave it half shut for weeks on end), and those cones you use are just plain dangerous. British motorways must have some of the worst matrix signs in Europe - they hardly exist. It's little wonder that British motorists coming into Europe get into such a mess when they arrive here. They not used to well-run autoroutes with decent information, and don't understand proper motorway driving. Please keep out of the middle lanes.
JohnC, Holland

I live in Italy. Why revoke the frequent nightmares of travelling along Italian roads where badly indicated surprise repairs are regular features of the highways? Much better to remember Japan's highways. All roads there are a pleasure to drive on, tolls cost the earth, but no nasty surprises other than the erratic and confusing road signs.
Nadia Sani, Cerreto

The worst thing about roadworks is the signage which is often left out when the roadworks themselves are packed up (overnight or weekends). This causes unnecessary slow downs and confusions all round.

A couple of years ago I drove - starting at about 6.00am - from my home in Wilts to Warrington in Lancashire. On that journey (mixed motorways and A-roads) I encountered no fewer than 6 sets of roadworks that were signposted, but not actually there!
Alan T, Salisbury UK

Motorways seem to be in good order, agreed. But the road surfacing in towns can be a nightmare. After the hot summer lots of roads need to have their surface repaired. Other countries have much hotter summers and colder winters than us and they don't seem to have such problems. Why is our road surfacing of such bad quality?
Marcus, Cambridge

I think they're missing the whole point ! The information about where they are, and recovery may be good - but there are still far too many of them and they take so long to finish compared with our European counterparts. The M1 near Luton has been going on for nearly a year now and it's a constant nightmare....why can't they work on these 24 hours a day?
Billy Brown, London

There seems to have been a change in recent years - motorway roadworks now mostly carry a 40mph speed limit.

Considering that many of these stretches of roadworks give a three lane road of equivalent width to many A-roads (some of which have a 70mph limit) - is there any reason why the motorway should run more slowly? Surely it's not a revenue collecting exercise?

I appreciate that lower speeds make the road safer but that cannot be the only factor or the speed limit would be reduced to 10mph. Using a 40mph limit is, in most cases, too slow, especially when driving around midnight when the workforce is not present and there are very few other vehicles around.
Peter, London

If the M25 roadworks are so good, why are there so many delays almost everyday? I almost missed an international flight because the slipway and M25 motorway leading up to the Terminal 3 turnoff at Heathrow was so congested that it caused two or more hours delay. I had left the house about 7:00 am to get to the airport by 9:00 am but arrived only by 11:00 am and my flight was leaving at 12:00 pm
Marguerita Morton, Tunbridge Wells

What cobblers How many roadworks have no-one working on them. Our roads are already a shambles this is made worse by roadworks with no-one working on them. Although safety is important surely the safest way is to get roadworks completed as soon as possible with 24 hour working!!!!!
Alan Deakin, Durham

The M1 through Luton is an absolute disaster. 5 miles of roadworks, usually the same or more of tailbacks before you even get there. And it's going on until the middle of 2008 - so every journey using that stretch of road for the next 2yrs I have to add at least an hour on for delays
Larry, London

How can we compare the quality, I travelled from northern France to the south coast, and did not see one set of roadworks. When I returned I was stuck in Dover, then on the A2, then the M25, then the M11 etc etc etc
Steve Harker, UK

The AA must be living in a different world. Has anyone from their organisation been to France, a country where they know how to build, repair and maintain roads properly.
Derek R. Caves, London, England

France has the worst roadworks I have ever seen - both sides of the road dug up at the same time and then left to rot for a while! Poor lighting (esp. in the country) and a total nightmare all round.
LynnieP, Worcestershire

I does not surprise me. Driving in Italy is just horrendous. Somewhat surprisingly, roadworks in Switzerland are badly marked and on the motorway they put up huge concrete blocks on the road to block off a lane. The result is one very narrow lane that is quite intimidating to drive along. Road works, particularly the entry to contraflows, are very poorly marked. For some reason the don't like using cats-eyes either. Give me UK roadworks any day.
Jonathan, Zurich, Switzerland

The 150 mile motorway from Basel to Geneva. Roadworks literally 80% of the whole way (almost a permanent 50 mile an hour speed limit for 3 hours), and the exact opposite of England... so FEW traffic cones that sometimes you have absolutely no idea where to go.
Gareth Johnston, Geneva, Switzerland

I'm delighted to learn that UK is judged to have best in Europe road works, after all they need to be as they are a permanent fixture on our roads because of the complete ineffectiveness of completing the actual work !!
SBriggs, UK

Comparatively speaking, yes, they probably are "good" when rating against roads abroad. It however doesn't mean they are up to scratch for the job they are required to perform in the UK. Too many cameras, speed restrictions and distracting signs.
JH, M40, M25 & M4 car park visitor

How can the M42 come top! It has to be the worst stretch of Motorway in the UK. After years of roadworks causing delays, the immense cost is evident every 100 yards with huge overhead gantries and displays that are always off. And then there are the cameras! Everyone ends up tailgating at 69mph, very unsafe! I dread approaching this part of my route when travelling up from London. Best motorway for me is the M27, to Portsmouth, well maintained and well lit at night.
Bertie, Derbyshire, UK

This really surprises me, I'd think that the roadworks in this country are amongst the worst.

On the M8 near Glasgow, a 5 mile stretch was being worked on for 4 years. During this time speed limit was slowed to 40mph and the result was just a new surface. For the amount of time it took them to complete the road works, I'd expect at least a third lane to have been built to help combat congestion!
David Jones, Glasgow, Scotland

Am I reading this correctly? Are we really celebrating that we have the best delays and contraflows in Europe?
Alan, Southampton

The roadworks at Junction 25 of the M25 in Enfield/Cheshunt may appear marvellous to the AA inspectors but for Enfield residents who suffer from motorists avoiding the long term disruption by creating rat runs the picture is less marvellous!
Simon W. Ladd, Enfield, United Kingdom

Is it really surprising we are so good at roadworks when we get so much practice?
Al , Chelmsford

Britain is number one! Teenage Pregnancy rate, Heart Disease, Childhood Obesity and now......Roadworks! Europe take note!
Chris Stoner, Hampshire, UK

Having driven 3,000 miles during August through 7 European countries - including Croatia ( whose motorway system is the most modern and free flowing I have driven on ), I was appalled by the Austrian conditions. For those that don't know - to drive in Austria you first need to pay a car tax AND road tolls AND tunnel tolls even though road improvements are EU subsidised! My frustration came after a two and a half hour jam south of the German border, near Salzburg on August 27th. this year. Having paid my tax and multiple tolls, (including one for the stretch we and thousands of other 'motorway' users were on) we had to pay again to leave the 12km jam before entering a jam free and toll free and tax free Germany.

If you take my advice - go round or over Austria - but then again I'm sure they'll find a way of taxing us in the sky!
Stephen Graham, Austria

A study to measure the quality of roadworks? Surely the important factors are how long the work takes and how badly the approaching traffic is affected, rather than whether the signs are pleasing to eye and the lanes are well marked?

Maybe there is an annual awards ceremony for roadworks with various contractors battling it out for top spot.....
Steve Wilson, Huntingdon, UK


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