Fleet News

Caution urged as M25 becomes ‘smartest’ motorway in the country

Final preparations are taking place for the M25 to become England’s first ‘smart’ motorway, improving journeys and boosting the economy.

Two sections of the motorway opening this month and next, will, for the first time on a motorway scheme in England, have the hard shoulder converted for use as a permanent traffic lane for drivers and have enhanced technology to manage traffic flow to improve the reliability of journey times.

The improvements – spanning some 20 miles of the M25 - are part of a new generation of technology-driven improvements on the strategic road network known as ‘smart motorways’.

The advance on the M25 - which will be repeated on other motorways - is the permanent conversion of the hard shoulder for traffic, providing 24/7 extra capacity.

The two sections are between junctions 23 and 25 in Hertfordshire and between junctions 5 and 6/7 on the Kent/Surrey border. The introduction of smart motorways will improve journey time reliability for drivers.

John Martin, Highways Agency senior project manager, said: “Around £1.7 billion is being invested into roads in the South East by 2021 with 145 new lane miles of capacity added.

“Most of the work to improve journeys on these stretches in Hertfordshire and Kent/Surrey is complete and we are now testing the new technology.

“We are delighted to be able to open the first part of the northern section ahead of the planned full completion in December 2014.

“The southern section is completing significantly earlier than planned due to rescheduling of the programme.

“Soon the smart motorway will be complete and we are now asking drivers to get smart and find out more about how to use it, the types of signs and signals they will see and what to do in the event of a breakdown.

“This really is the start of a new age on England’s motorways.”

However, the FTA is concerned that motorists may not be aware of the how these changes will affect their driving.

Malcolm Bingham, FTA's head of road network management policy, explained: "With the opening of the two stretches of the M25 Smart Motorway imminent, FTA is concerned that motorists need to fully understand how these stretches of road will work.

“The changes that have been made are quite significant, so drivers must become familiar with the types of new signs and signals they will see and what they should do in the event of a breakdown."

Final preparation are taking place to open the initial section of the M25 Smart Motorway between Junctions 23 (A1M/South Mimms exit) to 25 (Potters Bar) Monday 14 April, with the second  stretch to be opened between  junctions 5 (Sevenoaks/A21)  to 7 (M23 exit) in May 2014.

On each section the work to remove the traffic management will be carried out over a number of nights. The temporary 50mph speed limit will remain in place until the section opens.

On the Hertfordshire section work to remove the existing traffic management which has been in place during construction is taking place overnight and will be completed by the morning of Monday 14 April, when the temporary 50mph speed limit will be lifted and the new look section of motorway will be fully open.

Drivers will benefit from the full completion of the scheme later this year.

On the southern section the traffic management is due to be removed at the end of this month, with the section fully open in May. Further details will be announced nearer the time.

On this section work has completed ahead of the planned December 2014 date due to a reprogramming of the work schedule and good weather over the crucial construction period.

Bingham said: "Whilst any improvements to make journey times more reliable are always good news, FTA is saying that drivers need to make themselves aware of the changes to the road. 

“The Highways Agency has produced an information leaflet on the new ‘Smart Motorway' operation, and  the Association is urging  fleet operators and their drivers to look to the advice provided and ensure that they are as smart in the use or the road as the technology is on these new sections."

A public information campaign to help drivers find out more about smart motorways includes information online, on Youtube, in retail outlets such as motorway service areas, radio advertising, and leaflets.

For further information, click here.

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  • Mike Hind - 15/04/2014 12:33

    I'm surprised to read that this is a 'first'. We've got the hard shoulder permanently given over to managing peak time traffic eastbound between Bradford & Leeds on the M62 already, together with variable speed limits.

  • Roddy Graham - 15/04/2014 13:11

    Interesting - does the M42 not count as a Motorway ? It pioneered this modus operandi nearly 5 years ago .....

  • Bob - 15/04/2014 13:51

    At times it can be quite dangerous on the M42 where I spend a lot of my life as it seems erratic. Sometimes the limit drops to 60 then for one gantry only drops to 40, then goes back up to 60 or 70 (off). This causes panic slowing and bunching up and there is rarely any visible reason. It also often has long stretches of 60 with a random 50 thrown in. The cynical might suspect these are ploys to raise revenue by use of the speed cameras or at least justify their need for them by reeling in the odd victim lulled by many higher limit gantries. Bizarrely the system enables you to identify locals from out of towners. The locals all know the 'important' gantries and crack on between the others. The out of towners sit all the way at 59.9 mph.

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