Thursday, March 26, 2015

News: Further smart motorways ahead


Highways England has outlined its five year investment plan which includes plans for extending the smart motorway scheme that is already under construction through Rotherham.

The government-owned company, which replaces the Highways Agency from April 1, will invest £11 billion in delivering a raft of improvements on England's motorways and major A roads making roads even safer, improving traffic flow and reducing congestion.

The five year plan includes infrastructure and improvement projects that have already been announced by the Government including the two smart motorway schemes on the M1 through Rotherham.

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 project costing between £124m and £174m. A similar scheme costing between £163m and £221m is planned for 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. Signs and signals will still be used to inform drivers of conditions on the network and when variable speed limits are in place.

The schemes are set to be completed by contractors, Costain and be open for traffic by the April 2016.

Highways England has today announced a further 15 planned investments for the next "Road Period" which begins in 2019/20. This includes a project for four lane running on a stretch of the motorway between Rotherham and Wakefield which would fill in the gap and ultimately create a smart motorway all the way to Leeds. With 41 lane miles set to be converted with schemes underway, the next project would provide an additional 27 lane miles of capacity.

The long term goal is a smart motorway spine linking London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

Graham Dalton, chief executive of Highways England, said: "The launch of Highways England is an incredibly significant moment for those who rely on England’s motorways and major A roads.

"As well as delivering the biggest investment in major roads since the 1970s, there will be fundamental changes to the way motorways and major A roads are maintained and operated. We will be focussing on customers, providing better travel information before and during journeys, improving safety and reducing the impact of roadworks.

"Highways England is the organisation that will meet this challenge. We are committed to a strategic road network in England that is far safer, more free-flowing and more integrated and supports economic growth across the country."

The plan also discusses the long awaited improvements to the trans-Pennine routes and improving journey times between Manchester and Sheffield. In December, the Government announced that it will be investing £170m on the A57, A628 and A628 trans-Pennine route, including a bypass for the village of Mottram. Design options and environmental surveys will need to be carried out before options are brought to the public through a consultation in 2017.

Highways England website

Images: Highways Agency


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