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Congestion studies back 14 lane 'mega motorways'

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A NEW generation of mega motorways, each up to 14 lanes wide, are to be recommended by government commissioned multi-modal transport studies, NCE can reveal.

Recommendations will soon hit ministers' desks and see 10 lane routes forming the spine of the UK motorway network. This will start around the M25 and travel up major parts of the M1 along the M6 to Manchester.

Motorway widening plus parallel local access lanes could create 14 lanes along some stretches in a bid to cut congestion and improve road safety.

The delayed Midlands to Manchester study by consultant Arup, to be published in January, is expected to recommend widening around 75km of the M6 north of J11 to J20 from dual three lane to dual four lane. But the scheme will involve enough land-take for a future upgrade to dual five lane.

This follows last month's recommendation from the West Midlands area study by Aspen Burrow Crocker and TPL to widen the M42 between J3a to J7 around Birmingham from dual three lane to dual five lane.

And sources said the south Midlands to London study by Oscar Faber, expected next year, is likely to recommend dual five lane from J11 on the M1 south to the M25 and dual four lane initially from J11 towards Birmingham. The WS Atkins and Steer Davies Gleave study on north south movements in the East Midlands is also likely to recommend in February that the M1 from J11 to J30 be widened to dual five and dual four lane highway.

But the motorway building picture will be complete when, as expected, the M25 London Orbital study by Brown & Root recommends a package of widening measures next year.

These will most likely include dual five lane motorway and in some cases dual seven lane in the 'busiest points' between junctions with the M3 and M4, and between the M4 and the M40. Alternatively it might recommend a parallel motorway to connect these roads rather than widening existing routes.

'All this will mean a change in what motorways are, ' said a source at sustainable transport lobbyist Transport 2000. All proposals are expected to involve big compulsory purchases and trigger statutory planning procedures.

'Ten lanes and even 14 lanes in some cases will involve a huge landtake. Large scale motorway building is now firmly back on the agenda, ' said the Transport 2000 source.

However, the addition of parallel local roads to separate local from long distance traffic is highlighted in new research by the AA as a means to halve accidents on the motorway.

Parallel local roads were recently discussed at a strategy meeting of the M25 Orbital study despite similar proposals in the late '80s causing local oppostion.

The 77km A1 Bramham to Barton study in the north already recommends widening to dual three lane motorway standard and adding local access roads to bring it up to eight lanes in places.

Parallel local roads are also being considered along the M42 and have been recommended along the A14 from Fenstanton east of Cambridge to the Girton interchange at J14 on the M11.

The enthusiasm for mega motorways comes just as the government's transport advisor the Commission for Integrated Transport warned that Britain's traffic congestion was spiralling out of control (see box).

Multi-modal studies were launched after the government shelved schemes in its 1997 Roads Review subject to studies exploring what public transport improvements could be launched before the original road scheme is recommended.

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