Tuesday, February 23, 2016

News: Wider benefits of smart motorway from March

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Final testing is to be carried out so that four lane running can begin on a key section of the M1 near Rotherham next month.

A ten mile stretch of the M1 between junctions 32 (south of Sheffield and Rotherham) and 35a (north of Sheffield and Rotherham) is set to benefit from a "smart motorway" project costing £106m. A similar scheme costing £205m is being carried out on the M1 between junction 28 (South Normanton) and 31 (Aston).

The projects include plans for converting the hard shoulder to an extra traffic lane in both directions and variable mandatory speed limits and they deliver benefits at a significantly lower cost than conventional motorway widening, and with less impact on the environment during construction.

Technology tests will take place for the new smart motorway which is due to go live between junction 28 and junction 31 next month.

Overhead electronic signs will help to prevent queuing and keep drivers informed about the journey ahead, and emergency refuge areas will be provided at intervals in case vehicles break down. Highways England estimates the upgrade will improve journeys for more than 95,000 drivers a day using this stretch.

Andy Kirk, senior project lead at Highways England, said: "We are opening this road to traffic with four lanes available while we test the technology at a reduced speed limit.

"The tests will allow us to gather reliable traffic data and calibrate the technology systems along this stretch.

"We hope drivers will notice a positive difference during the testing period as the extra lane will increase capacity, but the really big improvement will come once the smart motorway is fully open next month."

The testing will take place in stages along each stretch between junctions, and a 50mph speed restriction will be in place during testing for safety reasons. Once successful testing is complete, the speed restriction will be lifted and all four lanes will operate at 70mph.

Drivers will be able to take advantage of an extra fourth lane between junctions 28 and 29 on the northbound carriageway from Wednesday March 2 and in both directions from Thursday March 3.

Proposals were included to limit speeds to 60mph between 7am and 7pm seven days a week because of the potential effect of the new scheme on local air quality.

This option has not been accepted as the preferred option and instead experts have been rigorously investigating alternatives while work progresses on the scheme.

Contractors, Costain continue to work on the 32 - 35 stretch with construction scheduled to end "Winter 2016/17."

Highways England has set out proposals for a project for four lane running on a stretch of the motorway between Rotherham and Wakefield which would ultimately help create a smart motorway all the way to Leeds.

Highways England website

Images: Highways England

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