The Highways Agency (HA) chief executive, Graham Dalton, has officially started major construction work on a vital £126 million (US$197 million) scheme to increase capacity, reduce congestion and improve safety on the M6 motorway, between Junctions 5 and 8 near Birmingham.
When the scheme is complete in spring 2014, road users will benefit from improved journey times due to the use of variable speed limits to smooth out traffic flows and the use of the hard shoulder as an extra traffic lane. It will also connect the two existing stretches of managed motorway on the M6, between Junctions 4 and 5 and Junctions 8 to 10a, making it the longest stretch of managed motorway in the country. The works – which will encompass the M6 carriageway over Gravelly Hill Interchange (known as ‘Spaghetti Junction’) – will also be the first managed motorway scheme to be carried out on such a long, continuous, section of elevated motorway. It is one of 20 major road improvement projects due to start construction before March 2015, as part of a £2.1 billion (US$3.3 billion) government package of strategic road projects to boost the economy.
“Work starting today shows the Government is delivering on its promise to invest in transport; especially managed motorway schemes that have proven to reduce congestion, improve safety, and support economic growth,” commented UK Roads Minister Mike Penning. “These types of projects continue to deliver results and provide more reliable, efficient transport links for motorists and businesses. This is why we are funding an additional 11 managed motorway schemes over the next few years. It is about laying solid foundations for the future and delivering a first-class transport infrastructure this country needs.”
“The West Midlands is at the heart of England’s strategic road network, with some of the busiest motorways in the country,” Dalton said when launching the project. “That’s why I am delighted that main construction work is getting under way today, on schedule. The managed motorway scheme will provide much-needed additional capacity on the M6, for more than 160,000 road users who travel on this section of the motorway every day. I know the project team will do what they can to keep traffic moving while they deliver these much-needed improvements.”
The West Midlands was the first UK region to benefit from managed motorways technology, with the HA trialling the ‘congestion-busting’ scheme on the M42 Junctions 3a to 7 in 2006. Research has shown that accidents have more than halved since the hard shoulder was opened to traffic as part of the managed motorway scheme, and the technique has since been introduced on a further two sites in the region: M6 Junctions 4 to 5; and on the M6 between Junctions 8 and 10a, near Birmingham.
26 June 2012
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