Friday, April 8, 2016

News: First Rotherham smart motorway scheme completes

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Four lane running has begun on a stretch of the M1 motorway through Rotherham as part of a £205m project to deliver better and smoother journeys, helping businesses and boosting the local economy.

Highways England has been working on the scheme on a 20 mile stretch of the M1 between junction 28 (South Normanton) and 31 (Aston). A ten mile stretch of the M1 between junctions 32 (south of Sheffield and Rotherham) and 35a (north of Sheffield and Rotherham) is also set to benefit from a "smart motorway" project costing £106m.

The projects include 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.

Costain, the contractors for Highways England, have worked 1.75 million combined hours to complete the first scheme, which will improve journeys for more than 95,000 drivers a day using this stretch.

A similar scheme on the M25 which opened just over a year ago has seen the busiest journey times being halved and the number of collisions reduced by a fifth.

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Andy Kirk, senior programme manager at Highways England, said: "The new smart motorway will tackle congestion and improve journey times for the thousands of drivers who use it every day.

"The hard shoulder has been permanently converted to an extra lane to significantly increase capacity, and we'll keep vehicles moving using variable speed limits.

"We'd also like to thank drivers for their co-operation during the work and look forward to improving journey times for those travelling between the East Midlands and South Yorkshire."

Richard Stuart, project director at Costain, added: "It has involved high levels of collaboration between the project team, Highways England internal stakeholders and many external stakeholders. Despite numerous challenges along the way, the project has stood out for the one-team spirit which has underpinned the successful delivery through industry leading production rates, innovation and skills development. Of particular note is the holistic approach that the team has taken to the improvement works, with significant additional maintenance and asset renewals works delivered through the scheme to make most efficient use of the team’s presence on the network."

CCTV will be used 24 hours a day to enable staff in Highways England's regional control centres near Nottingham and Wakefield to respond quickly to incidents, closing lanes using red "X's" on overhead signs if necessary.

Drivers using the upgraded stretch of the M1 will also be able to use emergency refuge areas if they break down.

Work continues on the 32 - 35 stretch with construction scheduled to complete "by the end of March 2017."

Environmental assessments carried out on these proposed managed motorway schemes showed there was likely to be an adverse impact on local air quality if the motorway continued to operate at the national speed limit (70mph).

A proposed maximum mandatory 60mph speed limit was discounted by the Government and the latest option could see 60mph speed limits at peak times between junctions 28 and 35a. Highways England is looking at other mitigation options and imposing speed control will only be used as a last resort.

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. In the recent budget, the Government confirmed that funding would be made available to accelerate an M1 smart motorway scheme from junction J35a to 39.

Highways England website

Images: Costain

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