New world-class DMRB enables innovation while delivering efficiencies

Steve Davy, Head of Technical Standards at Highways England, explains more about the new DMRB and the benefits already being delivered across the industry.

The new Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB) suite is already enabling significant efficiencies to be realised, as seen by the reduced number of applications for departures from standards from the new-style documents.

So far, the new documents have delivered a drop in the departure rate of over 60% relative to the old documents. The cost for processing and responding to departures from standard is significant, and a 60% drop in departures would be equivalent to a saving of around £10-20 million per year.

Promoting innovation

While departures remain an important way of bringing innovation to schemes, the new DMRB documents are designed to allow increased innovation while simultaneously reducing the number of departures. This significant change in approach has been made possible by the new and rigorous drafting rules for DMRB documents, which draw on internationally leading research into how world-class systems of standards can be written to enhance ease of use and deliver benefits to infrastructure clients and their customers.

The drafting of the new DMRB documents has been tightly monitored for compliance with the new rules, delivering documents with a clear and unambiguous style that is explicitly based around the fundamental mandatory requirements of the overseeing organisations (clauses that say what “shall” or “must” be done). At the same time, the documents have been written in a way that avoids the technical content becoming quickly outdated. This new and rigorous approach to the way the documents are written and interpreted is having a transformative effect on the way that innovation can be incorporated into schemes, often without the need for a departure from standard.

Reducing departures

Departures from standard no longer apply to advice clauses in the new DMRB documents, including recommendations (clauses that say how a requirement “should” be satisfied). So where a DMRB document gives a recommended method for satisfying a requirement, and the user has justification to use a different method of satisfying the requirement (for example, to incorporate a more innovative method), that no longer requires an application for a departure from standard. It’s sufficient for the user to demonstrate that the fundamental requirement has been satisfied and to record the justification for not using the recommended method.

In addition to the reductions in departures, the use of the new DAS 3.0 system for managing the applications for departures has delivered even more efficiencies, including a much quicker collaborative process for reviewing and approving (or rejecting) departures. The combined effects of increased innovation, reduced departure numbers and quicker processing of departures have delivered a transformation in efficiency.

Further information

DMRB updates – new documents published – October 2019

About the new Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB) and what’s new