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UK Transport Minister opens England's second Hard Shoulder Running scheme

The UK’s Transport Minister, Chris Mole, opened England’s newest hard shoulder running scheme yesterday. The project on a 11km (7 miles) stretch of the M6 near Birmingham has opened a month earlier than planned and was delivered as part of a £150 million (US$247 million) contract. The scheme follows the successful M42 pilot, also in the West Midlands, which has delivered safer and more reliable journeys. Motorists traveling on one of England’s busiest motorways will now be able to use the hard shoulder as a traffic lane during busy periods.

The opening marks the completion of the Managed Motorways scheme on the M6 between junctions 4 and 5. The scheme uses a range of innovative technology to actively control traffic. Features such as variable speed limits and opening up the hard shoulder to traffic at peak times are designed to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion, whilst delivering safer journeys. Results from the M42 pilot showed more reliable journey times for drivers (a 22% improvement) and safer journeys, with a reduction in the number of accidents from an average 5.1 a month to 1.8 a month.

On the M6, 96 lane specific signals, 24 driver information signs and 23 overhead lightweight gantries have been installed. The new signals show drivers when mandatory speed limits are in place, as well as showing which lanes are open to traffic. The driver information signs use text and internationally-recognized pictograms to give drivers information about the road ahead. Emergency refuge areas (ERA), with emergency telephones directly connected to the Highways Agency control centre, are provided at frequent intervals so that vehicles that breakdown during the operation of hard shoulder running can stop safely.

Mole says, “The M6 is the first motorway, after the successful M42 pilot, to see the hard shoulder opened up as a running lane to ease congestion and make journey times more reliable. This crucial scheme will make an invaluable contribution to business and economy and I am delighted that the benefits are being brought to road users on this vital national transport spine a month ahead of schedule.” Tim Harbot, the Highways Agency regional director, adds, “We are delighted to deliver these benefits a month early, providing additional capacity to the M6 in the run up to Christmas. These improvements will help road users make their journeys safely and more reliably by using variable speed limits to manage the flow of traffic and opening up the hard shoulder as a running lane to provide additional capacity when required. Work continues on the M6 between Junction 8 (Rayhall) and 10a (M54) to deliver hard shoulder running. We expect to open this scheme to traffic in spring 2011.”

 

December 1, 2009

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