Fleet News

Hard shoulder opening

The hard shoulders of some of the busiest motorways in the country are to be opened at peak times in an attempt to beat congestion.

Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly said that following a 12-month £100 million trial on the M42, new ways of managing motorway traffic - including hard shoulder running - will be implemented as part of a £150m scheme on the motorway box around Birmingham.

A feasibility study will also be undertaken on other parts of the motorway network.

"New traffic management techniques, like hard shoulder running and varying speed limits, offer practical and cost-effective solutions to cutting congestion and I now want to explore whether other motorways could benefit from similarly creative measures,” said Ms Kelly.

“Other important benefits are less disruption from road works, reduced environmental impacts, better information for drivers and a faster, more effective response to accidents."

The first six months of the full M42 trial, where the hard shoulder was in use during peak periods, saw average journey times fall by more than a quarter on the northbound carriageway.

Alongside this, overall fuel consumption reduced by 4% and vehicle emissions fell by up to 10%.

Following a survey of drivers’ attitudes to the new scheme, it was found that 84% of drivers felt confident about using the hard shoulder.

Alongside this, since the introduction of hard shoulder running the personal injury accident rate has fallen from 5.2 per month to 1.5 per month on this section of the M42.

The Department for Transport will now begin a major study that will go further than just opening hard shoulders and will also look at reserving lanes for high occupancy vehicles, heavy vehicle lanes and through traffic lanes.

Other ideas include the separation of slower and faster moving traffic, possibly by imposing differential speed limits on different lanes.

However, the Department for Transport has stressed that it is not abandoning its road building programme. “This study does not preclude the use of conventional road building or improvement schemes on the motorway network, but advanced traffic management systems may offer a quicker and better value solution in some parts of the network,” it said.

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