Metric Views is pleased to give credit where it’s due, and this week it is due to Transport for London (TfL) for raising the bar on the signage of vehicle restrictions. We have previously criticised the signing at the Rotherhithe Tunnel, a road operated by TfL, but a few weeks ago new signs were installed which meet the standards recommended in the Traffic Sign Manual.
Previously, vehicle restrictions were signed on a hodge-podge of different signs, some clearly showing their age. Height and width limits were both signed in both feet and metres, but inconsistently, with some signs showing only feet/inches and others both units. Length signs showed only feet, and in a style not permitted under the current regulations.
A few weeks ago the signing was overhauled, with the previous collection of signs being swept away and replaced with smart new signs incorporating the best practice, as outlined in the Traffic Signs Manual.
– consistent application of dual units for height and width limits;
– length limits in the correct format, including the 10 m limit;
– use of the correct lower case “t” for tonne
The new signs should increase driver comprehension of the vehicle restrictions in force, and provide a good template for the operators of other roads with vehicle restrictions.
Ultimately the UK Metric Association looks forward to the time when imperial units will no longer be necessary, allowing even clearer signs.
The only down side is that the new emergency escape signs within the tunnel, erected at a not inconsiderable expense, use yards instead of metres. Metres are required under the Vienna Convention, and indeed reading the UK government’s position suggests that metres should be used in this case, as it pertains to personal safety; while drivers unfamiliar with yards could arguably be expected to learn them before taking to the road, this isn’t true of people who happen to be being transported through the tunnel when they find themselves in an emergency situation.
Alas the Department for Transport has chosen not to enact the sign to the standards required in the Vienna Convention, nor to follow UK government policy on metrication, but to require the erection of new signs using antiquated units. More on this latter point can be found in this earlier post, part of which is reproduced below for ease of reference:
Signs indicating the emergency escape routes in tunnels are of critical importance to the safety of tunnel users, given the particular hazards of fire and smoke within tunnel environments. Sadly, the government’s irrational position on units of measure even extends to these safety critical signs.
By international agreement under the auspices of the United Nations, new road signs showing pedestrian escape routes with distances were adopted for international use in tunnels in 2003, providing a common design for use in all countries to improve evacuation in the event of a tunnel incident. These new signs added the distance in metres to the nearest exit, as illustrated in the updated Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals:
In the UK, the Department for Transport (DfT) noted this advance, but decided that new signs using obsolete imperial units should be erected in tunnels across the UK, regardless of whether young people or visitors to this country may need to be evacuated from a tunnel, and heedless of government guidance that metric units are the primary system of units in the UK.
New signs are being installed by highway authorities in tunnels across the UK, including in London, where Transport for London (TfL) are refurbishing road tunnels with new signs showing the distance only in yards (and to the nearest yard!), as shown in this picture taken in the Rotherhithe Tunnel: