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Mon August 19 2019

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Highways England unveils multilingual message boards

8 Jul Highways England has started giving roadworks information in nine different foreign languages on portable electronic variable message signs.

Highways England project manager Jobert Fermilan in front of a sign announcing in Lithuanian that junction 44 of the M6 is open to traffic
Highways England project manager Jobert Fermilan in front of a sign announcing in Lithuanian that junction 44 of the M6 is open to traffic

The idea is to improve roadworks information for visiting foreign lorry drivers. Cleverly, an automatic number plate reader in the side of the road detects where the lorry is from and then flashes up any relevant warning message in the language of the presumed driver.

Perhaps not so cleverly, however, instead of using them in Kent, or even Essex or Humberside, where most visiting truckers first arrive in England, Highways England is piloting the signs in Cumbria – the very furthest place in England from mainland Europe.

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Highways England has a £7m roundabout improvement scheme at junction 44 of the M6 motorway so lorry drivers on the connecting A66 and A69 are being warned variously in German, French, Polish, Romanian, Dutch, Spanish, Lithuanian, Slovak and Hungarian when the roundabout is closed for the overnight work.

Highways England senior project manager Steve Mason said: “We’re a listening and learning organisation and we’re determined to improve the way customers get roadworks information. We carried out major improvements along the A66 near Penrith last year and while the communications and diversion routes worked well, we had some feedback from Cumbria Police that foreign lorry drivers were missing some of the messaging. This not only inconvenienced the drivers but also local communities as we had lorries on inappropriate diversion routes. We’ve taken that learning on board and hopefully providing tailored messaging for foreign lorry drivers will improve everyone’s experience of these roadworks.”

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