The Roads Act 1920 introduces the Road Fund to generate government revenue from excise duty on road vehicles and the sale of licences for motorists and horse drawn carriages. 

The new Ministry of Transport creates a classification system for the important routes connecting large population centres or for through traffic. 

County Councils are granted funding to improve roads and two unemployment relief road schemes are run to undertake the work over the next ten years. Government grants are limited to trunk roads and bridges, with the money coming from the Road Fund.


County councils are vested responsibility for all roads. Lancashire County Council proposes a new scheme for a motorway and is given the go ahead but work is postponed due to the start of WWII. 

The first edition of the Highway Code is published including advice for motorcycle riders. There are just 2.3 million motor vehicles in Great Britain, but more than 7,000 people are killed in road accidents each year.

A committee chaired by Sir Henry Maybury brings in more road signs including ʽNo Entry‘ and ‘Keep Left’.

Work on the first inter-urban road in the UK is completed. The East Lancs Road is built between 1929 and 1934 at a cost of £8 million.

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The Ministry of Transport takes direct control of the core road network through the Trunk Roads Act 1936.

Government plans are drawn up to create a new network of high-speed routes across the country. The Special Roads Act 1949 is passed to give the government legal powers to build roads that were not automatically rights of way for certain types of user.

The Anderson Committee commissions Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert at the Chelsea School of Art to create road signs.

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The UK’s first motorway standard road, the Preston Bypass, now part of the M6 motorway, is opened and the new road signage developed by Kinneir and Calvert is tested on the route.

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The M1, UK’s first major motorway, is opened between Crick and Berrygrove.   It doesn’t have a speed limit, central reservation, crash barriers or motorway lighting.

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The Worboys Committee commissions Kinneir and Calvert to overhaul all of Britain’s road signs. Colin Buchanan publishes ‘Traffic in Towns’ a report on urban transport planning policy which highlights the urgency of dealing with the expected massive growth in road traffic, and the damage unplanned growth could cause.

The new signeage system developed by Kinneir and Calvert becomes law on January 1. The precursor to the Institute of Highway Engineers, called the Association of Highway Technicians (AHT) is established by its first chairman and founder H.S. Taylor.

A revision of design standards is proposed to reduce the width of roadside grass verges on newly constructed rural motorways, and marginal strips that separate each carriageway from the central reservation.

The Ministry of Transport report Roads in England is planned to complement the new interurban routes with £1bn of new urban trunk roads outside London in order to alleviate traffic congestion, along with parking controls, traffic management and public transport. 

The first meeting of the Association of Highway Technicians in the South West (now IHE’s South West Branch) is held. The group visits the E.C.C. Quarry at Rockbeare.

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The first 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of motorway is built. Urban routes run into opposition in the 1970s causing the cancellation in London of new ringways and the widening of Archway Road. IHE’s predecessor, the AHT, becomes a completely independent body called the Highway and Traffic Technicians Association (HTTA) under H. S (Bill) Taylor’s leadership with the ability to add members to the national register. The first  conference on microprocessors and traffic signalling is held.

The Association of Highway Technicians in the South West visits three major road improvement schemes on the A38 Exeter-Plymouth Road including the Drumbridge-Caton Cross Diversion, the Ivybridge Bypass and Drybent. A visit to the South Brent Improvement Scheme is cancelled due to heavy rain when the members coach becomes bogged down and is rescued by the contractor’s plant.

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The Association of Highway Technicians in the South West starts the tradition of the Branch gavel which is made by Bryan Sefton-Smith from an old gate post and is engraved each year with the current Chairman’s name.

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The Association of Highway Technicians in the South West visits Torbay to see one of the earliest Urban Traffic Control systems in 1978. 

The Conservative Government under Margaret Thatcher adopts a pro roads policy, undertaking numerous road upgrades and completing the M25 motorway. The Association of Highway Technicians in the South West holds a meeting called ‘The Highway Technician and His Future’ in response to the Association’s developing interest in training. Rob Deacon, Deputy County Surveyor at Cornwall CC presentation was entitled: ‘The Employer’s View of the Technician’.

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The Association of Highway Technicians in the South West visits the Thames Tidal Barrier Project.

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Branch site visits during the 1980s show a different approach to Personal Protective Equipment.

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The Institute’s first Traffic Signal Control conference is held at Nottingham University and continues to this day. IHIE establishes the annual Traffic Signs forum and helps launch Traffic Sign Regulations (TSRGD). The IHIE is one of ten institutions to create the Joint Accreditation Panel for IEng and technician courses. IHIE sits on the CISC Board, and develops higher level occupational standards and NVQs/SVQs for construction with transportation qualifications among the first to be designed. The M3 motorway is completed by building a six-lane road in a cutting through Twyford Down. This attracts the first direct action protests against a major road in the country. Protests and disturbances also take place during the upgrading of a section of the A12 through east London. Costs increase rapidly, with the Newbury bypass being 50% over budget and many other schemes showed increases of 100%.

IHIE launches the revised TSRGD and the traffic signs forum is inaugurated, becoming an annual event.

A major Royal Commission report, “Transport and the Environment”, is published to highlight the serious environmental consequences of UK’s transport system.  The last new motorway in the United Kingdom (The M3 motorway in Northern Ireland) opens. A significant number of remaining schemes are cancelled, although the government still intends to continue with others using private financing.

The election of the Labour government in 1997, sees most remaining road schemes cancelled. Problem areas of the road network are subject to multi-modal studies to investigate non-road alternatives, following the introduction of the A New Deal for Trunk Roads in England White Paper.

Around 40% of the English trunk road network is transferred to local authorities. Central control is retained for the network connecting major population centres, ports, airports, key cross-border links and the Trans-European Road Network.

East Midlands Branch members Geoff Whittaker and Joanne Wilson are pictured with Branch sponsor Dave Dannet from LCR circa 1998.

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The South Western Branch visits the Eden Project during its construction.

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In 2002, the government proposes a new major road building program with 360 miles (580 km) of the strategic road network to be widened, 80 major new trunk road schemes to improve safety and 100 new bypasses on trunk and local roads.

In 2004, the Government announces in the Queen’s speech a major new funding source from transport schemes, the Transport Innovation Fund (TIF).

IHIE Guidelines for Motorcycling is launched and wins the Prince Michael International Road Safety Award. The IHIE celebrates forty years of service to highways professionals. 

In 2007, a new Planning Bill is introduced to Parliament to speed up the process of approving new roads and other transport infrastructure but raises concerns that it may be a “developer’s charter”. Traffic has increased by 80% between 1980 and 2005 whilst road capacity has increased by 10%.

The Institute is renamed the Institute of Highway Engineers (IHE) with a launch at Westminster Abbey and it retains this name today. The IHE establishes and opens the Register of Road Safety Auditors.

The IHE Mercia Branch Awards are established and become an annual event showcasing regional engineering projects.

The IHE works with the Department for Transport (DfT) to review the new schedules for the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD) to be released in 2015. It holds a year-long series of sell out conferences to train highway professionals on the upcoming changes.   

IHE’s Mercia Branch holds its Annual Regional Awards Evening to recognize the good practice and excellent projects delivered by consultants and local authorities. The event also recognizes yearly exemplar, recently professionally qualified Engineering Technicians, Incorporated Engineers and Chartered Engineers who live or work in the Mercia region.

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The revised Traffic Sign Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD) 2015 is introduced.

The Infrastructure Bill is introduced creating a 5-year funding certainty for the highways infrastructure supply chain in England. It is welcomed by IHE and highways industry bodies. 

The IHE celebrates its 50th anniversary with a celebration at Parliament House on June 10. Prestigious IHE Honorary Fellowships are awarded to individuals who have made significant personal or professional contributions to the highways industry.

  • Ginny Clarke is the Strategy and Planning Director for the newly formed Highways England a role in which she is Chief Highway Engineer.
  • John Dales is the founding Director of Urban Movement a company specialising in project design, research and planning in the urban environment.
  • Wayne Duerden is Head of Traffic Engineering Policy at the Department for Transport and leads a team who develop policy, regulatory frameworks and technical advice.
  • Graham Hanson is Head of Traffic Signs policy at DfT. Graham managed the national traffic signs policy review for the DfT and was responsible for “Signing the Way”.  Graham is also DfT policy lead for traffic regulation and type approval, as well as being the lead official for the European Commission’s Directive on Intelligent Transport Systems.
  • Peter Jones is Professor of Transport and Sustainable Development at University College London.
  • Tony Sharp is a Senior Engineer at South Gloucestershire Council, he specialises in Traffic Signals.
  • Steve Spender is Head of Highways (North and East) at Hampshire County Council. He was President of the IHE from 2010 to 2012.
  • Professor Margaret Bell is on staff at Newcastle University’s Faculty of Engineering and Geosciences, and her research interests include traffic and environment monitoring, modelling management and control.

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