Uncertainty in highway design (5)

New concepts taught to students from developing countries

From the previous posts on this topic it looks like the concept of uncertainty / factors of safety is relevant to the field of highway geometrics. The examples quoted in the previous post come from documents from the UK, Norway, South Africa and Australia / New Zealand, so it looks like the concept (if not the detailed application) is international as well as topical.

There is a good chance that the concept of uncertainty is being taught to international students of engineering – including students from developing countries. For example, it is surely part of highway engineering courses organised by UK and Norwegian universities. Further, for the UK, the top ten non-EU countries which overseas students come from include India, Nigeria and Malaysia universities; and 32% of students attending engineering and technology courses come from other countries.

Norway has a Norwegian Quota Programme – “a funding scheme offered by the Norwegian Government to students from developing countries, Central and Eastern Europe, and former Soviet states for studies at institutions of higher education in Norway” (quoted from here), and also a special “Tanzania Agreement” for enhancing the quality of higher education and research in Tanzania” (ref. 1614).

New documents for developing countries

Several countries have produced new, national highway design guides in recent years. For example:

  • Tanzania has a comparatively new guideline on highway geometrics (the “road geometric design manual” of 2011″ (ref. 294). The manual was prepared with the aid of experts from Norway in the form of staff from the Norwegian Public Roads Administration.
  • In 2013 Nigeria‘s Federal Ministry of Works produced a series of documents which form the new Highway Manual. Part 1 volume 1 covers geometric design. (ref. 1505). The document was prepared with the assistance of a firm of international consultants with origins in countries which include the UK and the Netherlands.
  • Albania in 2007 saw the introduction of a new road design and construction manual. Volume ARDM 2 deals with geometric design. Its table 5.2 gives a single value for minimum radius against design speed. (ref. 1155). It seems that the document was prepared by a Spanish consulting company.


So far as I can see none of these documents for developing countries refers to concepts for uncertainty or factor of safety. The Nigerian document even says that:

“It is impossible to balance centrifugal force by super elevation alone, because for any given curve radius, a certain super elevation rate is exactly correct for only one operating speed around the curve” (own emphasis).

This sounds like quite the opposite to any idea of uncertainty or factor of safety. The question then is, if countries such as the UK and Norway (to take two examples at random):

  • train students from developing countries in modern highway design theory
  • have concepts for uncertainty and factors of safety in their own design manuals etc
  • see specialists from their countries helping with the preparation of new geometric design manuals for developing countries

…. then I wonder why it is that the concept of uncertainty / factor of safety doesn’t appear in the developing countries’ new manuals.



294 – Tanzania, Ministry of Works, “Road Geometric Design Manual (2011 ed)”

1155 – Albania, Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Communications, “ARDM 2 Road design manual vol. 2 / geometric Design”; 2007

1505 – Nigeria, Federal Ministry of Works, “Highway manual part 1 Design / vol. I: geometric design”; 2013

1614 – Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Higher Education, “The Tanzania Agreement”; 2009


About roadnotes

Robert Bartlett is an international consultant with over 30 years of professional experience as a highway and traffic engineer with leading companies and organisations in several countries, including Germany, China (Hong Kong), Qatar and the UK. Specialised in urban studies, transport and the use of GIS, research has included new ideas on subjects such as the study of social justice using GIS, the dimensions of vehicles, and comparative geometrics (highways and transport).
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