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Highways England trials multilingual road signs


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Highways England has launched a pilot using automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) to provide foreign language warnings on road signs.

It is providing information on roadworks in nine languages on several portable electronic variable message signs.

The system works with an automatic number plate reader in the side of the road warning the electronic sign that a foreign lorry is approaching. The sign then selects an appropriate foreign language message such as ‘M6 J.44 Cerrado’ – ‘closed’ in Spanish.

Drivers are being warned of roadworks in German, French, Polish, Romanian, Dutch, Spanish, Lithuanian, Slovak and Hungarian.

It is believed to be the first time in the UK that electronic signs have been used in this way to get information to continental truckers.


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.”

Road user watchdog Transport Focus worked with Highway England’s staff in Cumbria ahead of major work along the A66 last year, then used it as a case study of how to better plan and communicate roadworks.

Transport Focus senior stakeholder manager Lee Rowbotham said: “Getting better, more helpful information to foreign HGV drivers was one of the things we all identified as a potential improvement from last year’s A66 improvement works so full marks to Highways England for piloting this project in Cumbria.”

Image by brianfagan, CC BY 2.0

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