The Institution of Highway & Transportation

The History of CIHT

The Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation, originally founded as the Institute of Highways Engineers, has a long and distinguished history since its formation in 1930 under the leadership of Captain Frobisher. In the years since its launch in Swaffham, Norwich it has grown to a membership approaching 12,000 and a position of being a foremost authority and learned body on all matters relating to Highways and Transportation, with 19 branches in Great Britain and Ireland plus overseas branches in Malaysia and Hong Kong .  CIHT can boast a history of distinguished, charismatic and influential Presidents, including notably HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh as well as Lord Reith and Earl Mountbatten of Burma as Honorary Fellows of the Institution. 

CIHT’s history demonstrates the development of the Institution in a changing world from its original focus on highways engineering to become a national recognised body on all aspects of design, construction, operation, management and maintenance of the highways and transportation infrastructure.  CIHT has proved its adaptability to the new era of transportation whilst retaining many of the traditional values and founding principles of the Institution. 

CIHT prides itself on having an active membership that represents the leading experts and practitioners in the profession built around a vigorous branch organisation that has been a conspicuous element in its success.  

Throughout its life CIHT has a made significant contribution to the promotion of best practice and raising the academic status of the profession. It was as early as 1934 that the Institution decided that new members must be qualified academically. From its inception the Institution produced a Journal (later to become a Bulletin) to inform and report on the Institution’s work. In the years up until the 2nd World War the Institution notable achievements included:

• Papers, lectures and visits were organised on a wide range of subjects, and information on practices abroad was gained from overseas members and foreign speakers.
• Loyal addresses were submitted in 1935 to King George V and Queen Mary, (on their Silver Jubilee) and in 1937 to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (to mark the Coronation).  Both were most graciously acknowledged.
• The Institution was represented at the 1934 Roads Congress in Munich and in 1937 as part of the British delegation to inspect the German Autobahn.
• Submitting formal comments on the proposals for a National Road Policy.
• Lieutenant Colonel G T Bennett, the County Surveyor of Oxfordshire and his predecessor Colonel A E Cockerton giving evidence as Council members to the House of Lords Select Committee on road accidents.

By the outbreak of war in 1939 the Institution was already a growing and significant body.  The war years necessarily curtailed the activities of the Institution.  Member subscriptions were waived for those in the Forces.  Over 25% of the Institution’s membership of 418 was serving in the armed forces. Virtually all the rest were engaged in difficult and hazardous work such as building and strengthening roads and bridges, constructing airfields, harbours and docks plus coping with the devastation of enemy bombing.

Post war the Institution played a valuable part in the work of reconstruction. Importantly for the Institution the aforementioned Lieutenant Colonel G T Bennett OBE became President on his return from distinguished Army service in France and the Middle East. He become known nationally and internationally for his work on road accident prevention, using scientific layout design, and was one of the first to visualise the urgency of the need for motorway construction in this country. He was followed by an equally remarkable man, Mr J S Killick CBE who was President for four years. His many achievements included setting up the Road Traffic Engineering Congress.  With this leadership and the general resurgence in road building post war the Institution flourished.  In 1948 HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh accepted election to honorary membership, and has maintained a close interest in CIHT affairs ever since.  A third branch was formed covering South West England and by 1950 membership topped 1,000 for the first time.

During the 1950’s the Institution continued to benefit from Presidents how contributed much, and some who influenced developments in highway engineering still relevant today.  This included Sir James Drake who earned an international reputation for his vision of motorway development and being successful in constructing the first in Britain.  He was followed in 1960 by Prince Philip whose Presidency encouraged and inspired the entire membership.

At this time two far reaching policy decisions were also made.  In 1959 it was decided to introduce a one year rule for Presidents and to direct increases in subscriptions towards fostering branch activities. This led to a notable growth in Branches from four at the start of the decade to 13 by 1960.  In line with the growth in Branches membership expanded fast to reach 3,000 members by 1960.

In the 1960’s the Institution grew alongside the spectacular progress of the national motorway programme. The growing needs of members were met by the setting up of new branches, new Diploma examinations in specialist subjects, and the start of the national conference. The National Conferences proved to be a great success and became a regular biennial event for many years, adding substantially to the influence and status of the Institution and the highways and transportation profession.  Membership doubled to nearly 7,000 by the end of the decade.  The Institution expanded its influence academically and thereby widened its own sphere of specialisation.  This began with the introduction of an annual examination leading to the award of the Diploma in Traffic Engineering, establishing the Institution as a leader in the embryonic new discipline of Transportation. This was followed in 1966 by the introduction of a Diploma in Highways Materials. It was in 1964 that the Institution appointed its first full time Secretary and moved to headquarters offices in Queens Anne’s Gate, SW1. 

The 1970’s saw a greater emphasis in working collaboratively with sister organisations, notably the Institution of Civil Engineers – recognition of the broad areas of common interest and the benefits of sharing best practice.  Over the same period the membership broadened to include more academics, consultants and contractors matching the increasingly complexity and multiplicity of roles in the professional field.  In 1974 the Institution obtained charitable status and the Constitution of the Council was redrafted.  It was also at this time that the Institution made enquiries about obtaining Royal Charter status.

In the modern era the Institution has continued to build on its traditions whilst adapting to the fast changing external environment. To reflect this wider role in 1983 the Institution agreed to change its name to The Institution of Highways and Transportation.  A Hong Kong branch was established in 1984.  By the early 1990’s membership had reached 10,000 and a further overseas branch was formed in Malaysia.  In 1995 the Institution moved to offices in Endsleigh Street.

Come the 21st century and the Institution decided to modernise with its current logo.  Mary Lewis, Chief Executive, took over from Dr Cragg in 2001 and a new Republic of Ireland branch – the 19th branch – was established. The Institution now under licence from the Engineering Council offers Chartered or Incorporated Engineering qualifications to its members.

So it was that in 2005 the Institution was able to celebrate its seventy fifth anniversary with confidence and pride in a long history of achievement and contribution to the improvement of the transportation profession.

The Institution moved to new offices in Britannia Walk, London in October 2008. The new offices offer better facilities for members with expansive meeting rooms with audio/visual conference eqipment and a stylish bar area. The new offices are also DDA compliant.

To reflect its standing in the industry the Institution decided to apply for Royal Charter status. In 2008 IHT submitted its Petition, draft Charter and ByeLaws to the Privy Council.  At the Privy Council meeting held at Buckingham Palace on 15 October 2009 Her Majesty  the Queen approved an Order instructing the Lord Chancellor to affix the Great Seal to the Institution's Charter.

As a result on 7 December 2009 was granted its Royal Charter and took its current name of the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation.