Highway Engineering in Staffordshire

The guest speaker at the Society's meeting on 23rd October was Alan Onions, the County Surveyor of Staffordshire. Basing his talk on his presidential address to the Institute of Highways and Transportation, he made a vigorous defence of his profession and of the work of highway authorities. "Highway Engineers" he said "do not destroy our heritage". New highways like the Okehampton by-pass open up areas of countryside to many who would never otherwise see them. Opponents of highway schemes often get more publicity than they deserve.

We were taken through the benefits of new roads, the financial and practical problems of highway maintenance, road safety issues - did you know that 1986 was "European Road Safety Year?" - and the need for better education systems. Mr Onions drew attention to the quality of highway design, especially the bridge structures, and the enormous scale of the landscaping schemes which accompanied road construction. A short video illustrated many of the point made in his talk.

The talk provided an excellent context for a lively and interesting "question and answer" session which concentrated mainly on matters of local concern - heavy goods vehicles, lorry parks, new roads across the Friary, delays at traffic junctions, congestion in Rotten Row, the traffic impact of new shops on the cattle market, the inadequacy of sign posting, the pedestrianisation of the Market Square and much more.

We may not have had all the answers we wanted to hear but it was a pleasure to be in the company of a true professional and of someone who clearly is well experienced in playing on a difficult and unfamiliar wicket.

Mike Tole
October 1986