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Future of road widening uncertain after government responds to Eddington and Stern

The future of road widening schemes appears to hang in the balance today after the government's response to Sir Rod Eddington's report into the future of transport and Sir Nick Stern's report into climate change came down heavily in favour of hard shoulder running schemes.

The report concludes that the Active Traffic Management pilot on the M42 around Birmingham will be extended north onto the M6 and that in "many cases" ATM will be cheaper and more environmentally friendly than traditional widening. A "major feasibility study" into using it on a much wider scale has been commissioned.

"The "active traffic management" (ATM) pilot on the M42, which uses the hard shoulder as an additional lane during the most congested periods of the day, supported by variable speed limits, has been highly successful. We are now extending the system to the north (onto the M6) and also embarking upon a major feasibility study of the potential for implementing advanced traffic management systems on a wider scale," says the report.

"Of course, there will always be some roads where widening is the best or only option, but in many cases ATM may be able to deliver increased capacity now at lower cost, with lower CO2 and air pollutant emissions from smoother traffic flows, more predictable journey times and safety benefits."

The report also backs away from nationwide road charging.

"Urban congestion charging, backed by investment in public transport, is our priority.

"Therefore, whilst it is possible that road pricing could have the potential to be extended to include parts of the national networks, that is a decision for the future, to be informed by the development of local schemes, including London, and clear answers to the technological and system challenges."

Read the report at www.dft.gov.uk

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