Highways England starts trial of innovative ‘US-style’ junction system


Highways England (HE) has begun testing on an innovative, pilot project designed to reduce congestion along the M62 motorway near Warrington in Cheshire, using a form of the US-style ‘ramp metering’ system.

HE is delivering the project at the Croft Interchange, where junction 21a of the M6 meets junction 10 of the M62, to give drivers smoother and more reliable journeys along the eastbound M62, one of the busiest commuter congestion hotspots in the region. When the testing is completed in December / January, electronic information signs and variable mandatory speed limits on the M62 will combine with traffic lights on the motorway link roads from the M6, to provide smoother traffic flows.

The new motorway to motorway system will be introduced in two phases. The electronic variable message signs (VMS) will be introduced first, and drivers traveling between junction 9 and junction 11 of the eastbound M62 will start to see the signs in operation displaying mandatory variable speed limits and other information such as congestion warnings. The second phase of the scheme will see the traffic lights switched on at the end of the link roads onto the eastbound M62. Traffic leaving the M6 will be closely monitored and the lights will be controlled to minimize queuing onto the M6.

The £7m (US$9.2m) construction project involved installing some of the largest gantries ever used in the region to carry the electronic signs, crossing up to 10 lanes of traffic. Money for the project is coming from a £150m (US$197m) innovation fund, which is designed to encourage the agency to look at new technology or novel techniques to improve journeys, and is part of the £15bn (US$19.6bn) allocated in the UK government’s 2015 to 2020 Road Investment Strategy.

“This is an opportunity to combine existing technology and traffic management systems in a novel way to see whether we can give drivers using the frequently congested eastbound M62, lower journey times during peak hours and smoother, more reliable journeys.

“Once the system is fully up and running we’ll be monitoring its use over a period of up to a year. If it is successful, it could well be used on other motorway-to-motorway link roads across the country,” explained Andy Withington, HE’s program delivery manager for the North West.

“The key aim of the project is to test the novel technology introduced through this pilot project and tackle congestion at peak travel times, especially during the morning rush hour.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).