Highways England (HE) is expanding its smart motorway network in the country’s Northwest region, with road users promised over 100 miles (160km) of extra managed lanes to help tackle congestion and improve journey times.
Four new smart motorway schemes, worth around £500m (US$665m), are due to start construction work within the next 18 months. HE’s contractors will begin work on the first one later this summer, with construction starting on a 9-mile (14.5km) long stretch of the M62 that links the M6 near Warrington to the M60 near Eccles. Drivers have already been able to use over 10 miles (16km) of extra lanes on the M62 near Rochdale since December last year, and a stretch of smart motorway has also been completed on the M60 near the Trafford Centre. The final temporary narrow lanes have just been removed on the Manchester smart motorway scheme, and more than 200 electronic signs are due to be switched on later this month on a 9-mile (14.5km) long stretch of the M60 between Trafford Park and the M62/M66 interchange at Simister Island.
HE’s smart motorways use the latest technology to monitor real-time traffic levels so that variable speed limits can be automatically set on overhead electronic signs to keep traffic moving at a steady speed. The hard shoulders on each new smart motorway route will be converted into permanent extra running lanes, and new emergency areas will be created for drivers to use if they break down. New CCTV cameras will also provide 100% coverage of the routes and HE will be able to display red Xs on overhead signs to close any lane, allowing its traffic officers and the emergency services to get through.
Others schemes due to start construction in the Northwest within the next 18 months include:
• A 20 mile (32km) stretch of smart motorway on the M6 in Cheshire where work is due to be completed by spring 2019, providing 40 miles (64km) of extra lanes;
• Work will start in spring 2019 on a 4-mile (6.4km) smart motorway on the M56 near Manchester Airport, and on a 10-mile (16km) stretch of smart motorway on the M6 linking the M62 near Warrington to the M58 near Skelmersdale;
• A new 19-mile (30.5km) smart motorway will be created over the Pennines on the M62 between Rochdale and Brighouse, with construction due to start in autumn 2019.
“Smart motorways have been proven to be effective at tackling congestion, with the smart motorway on the M62 in West Yorkshire saving commuters an average of 30 minutes each week,” noted Mike Bull, HE’s smart motorways program manager for the North.
“We’ll be starting work on four new smart motorways in the Northwest over the next 18 months and will do everything we can to keep disruption to a minimum. The Northwest’s new smart motorway routes will provide over 100 miles of extra lanes benefitting the hundreds of thousands of drivers who use our motorways every day for commuting, business and leisure.”