Saturday, 5 April 2014

Features: M62 special report: Call for expansion to managed motorway

Businesses reliant on the road network for their trade are calling for an extension to the M62’s managed or ‘smart’ motorway scheme which currently operates between junction 25 (Brighouse) and 30 (Rothwell).

The £136 million scheme opened last October and allows the Highways Agency to monitor and respond to traffic patterns on the motorway by changing speed limits and opening up the hard shoulder as necessary.

“The managed motorways have been really positive,” said Chris Shaw, operations manager at Collett Group, Halifax. “I get drivers calling up when warnings flash up to let us know about accidents further up the motorways, so that’s really helpful.”

Concerns have been raised about the safety of the managed motorway scheme in relation to the use of the hard shoulder to ease congestion.

“The M62’s always been a notoriously bad motorway, and without hard shoulders it seems incredibly dangerous” said Linda Riordan, MP for Halifax.

“There are laybys every hundred or so meters, but if anything happens, you can’t choose where you break down.

“Ideally, I’d like to see them widen the motorway before getting rid of the hard shoulder, but I don’t know if they can.

“We desperately need to find a better solution for this,” she added.

Antony Firth, asset management team leader at the Highways Agency, said fears about the hard shoulder are unfounded.

“A similar scheme was put in on the M42 to ease congestion, but the safety benefits have been quite astounding,” he said.

“There were a significant amount of casualties on the M42 prior to that scheme being put in, since the smart motorway was put in there have been no serious injuries.”

The main issue with managed motorways according to Julie Jessop, director and driver at Arrow Coach Travel, Brighouse, is that many road users aren’t used to how they work.

“We find the managed motorway runs a lot better than it did before,” she said. “A lot of people don’t get that when it says to use the hard should they should use the hard shoulder - they stay bunched up in the last three lanes.

“Not everybody uses the motorway all the time, so the Highways Agency should make an effort to make people aware.”

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