Smart motorways and Dynamic Masterplanning pave the way to the future

Bringing digital to life 13 May 2018 Ruth Norman-Johnson

Great savings on gantries for Highways England are mirrored in project optimisation for Transport for London, among others.

Expert columns
8 min

Written in collaboration with Tom Channell and Mark Pniewski 

The inception of Highways England’s Smart Motorway Programme (SMP) is proof that innovation can play a central role when it comes to mobility. The product design process required a step change when the need arose to provide the highways with an even greater number of physical elements, such as signs and signals, supported by steel gantry structures, and to do so under even tighter deadlines.

The use of the bespoke software “Mango”, written in-house, has enabled Ramboll to automate, manage and evolve the design of the lightweight structures for the SMP. The automated gantry product, combined with a process-based design and modelling platform called ‘Smoothie’, a custom data management system called ‘Sorbet’ and a bespoke and flexible design solution named ‘Soufflé’, all come together into a living system developed by Ramboll. The system incorporates analysis software, 3D visualisation tools and 40 years of experience to provide efficient and effective design products for the highways industry.

Thanks to Ramboll’s innovation in the use of process-based product design systems, gantry design costs on a scheme-by-scheme basis for the SMP are anticipated to fall by almost 60% over the life of the current programme. Saving many thousands of euros in design and construction costs every year, the programme is constantly evolving through ongoing dialogue to address current and emerging client requirements. The system is currently used to provide approximately 95% of all of the highway gantry designs in the UK and accounted for the design of over 300 gantries in 2016 alone.

“The significance of the gantries design systems has been central in the development of the Smart Motorway concept, thus providing a standard of excellence to the wider motorway environment,”

Paul Unwin, Lead Sponsor M4 and M25, Smart Motorways Programme, Major Projects, Highways England.

Adoption in other designs

We have taken the principles, knowledge and lessons learnt on this project to widen the application by adopting it in the design of other civil engineering structure types, including culverts and steel/concrete composite bridges.

In tandem we have developed an approach for property professionals in the residential market that are looking for ways to increase cost certainty and return on investment. This so-called Dynamic Masterplanning is a way of radically enhancing the appraisal of new developments by incorporating engineering and fabrication criteria for buildings at the early decision-making stages, a method enabled by developing an automated process of form generation and evaluation.

Aiding in the work of architects, landowners, developers or whole city regions, the Dynamic Masterplanning tool can be used to model, manipulate and explore development sites, thus helping achieve optimal developments by exploring a wider solution space than possible with traditional methods. The tool rapidly generates and evaluates multiple options against site-specific constraints and client aspirations. This makes it possible to analyse more designs in less time and bring this evaluation data to the forefront of the design process and thus inform critical, early decision-making.

We have used this approach for clients like Transport for London, where on one site the approach resulted in 5,000 m2 more residential space than the client previously thought feasible. Ramboll has also optimised solutions for private clients, and not just in the buildings market. For example, the company developed an interactive tool to explore design solutions for a bridge between two manufacturing buildings for a major manufacturing client, which entailed a collaboration between our buildings and bridges team with a digital platform designed specifically for our client’s needs. 

“The significance of the gantries design systems has been central in the development of the Smart Motorway concept, thus providing a standard of excellence to the wider motorway environment,” 
Paul Unwin, Lead Sponsor M4 and M25, Smart Motorways Programme, Major Projects, Highways England.

”Ramboll has provided innovative advice when looking at options for building over a railway cutting. Their Dynamic Masterplanning platform really helped visualise and assess development potential by showing levels of scheme massing possible from changes in foundation design and construction methods. The technology involved meant that the advice was very responsive to changing variables as the project progressed.” 
Martin Teodorczyk, Senior Property Development Manager, Transport for London

Related markets and services



The movement of people ensures that our cities thrive and grow. But as the world’s population increases, and globalisation and urbanisation continue to intensify, we will have to transport an ever-greater amount of people in and between cities.

Overloading transportation systems results in congestion, air pollution and global warming. There is a need to rethink how we deliver transport services and shift to low-carbon modes of transportation such as trains, buses and bicycles.

Smart mobility


Stay updated on mobility trends. Read, see and hear about cities, companies and transport authorities that are making transport more efficient, fun and sustainable





Our online platform for sharing new and innovative ideas, insights and solutions to create sustainable societies.

[noun; the quality of being clever, original, and inventive; the ability to invent things or solve problems in clever new ways]