Work this week begins on installing £150M of technology around the ‘Birmingham Box’ to adapt the motorways for Active Traffic Management (ATM - also known as hard shoulder running).
Parts of the M6, M42 and M40 will be adapted for ATM, which will allow cars to drive along the hard shoulder in some places, but at reduced speed, and other areas will have speed controlled during busy periods. Trials along the M42 have been hailed as a success by the Department for Transport (DfT).
Along the trial route, average weekday journey times fell by more than a quarter on the northbound carriageway and drivers’ ability to predict their journey times increased by 27%. Safety on the road has also improved with the number of accidents reducing from an average 5.1 a month to 1.8 a month.
Transport secretary Ruth Kelly said, “Hard shoulder running is one of the innovative ways in which we can use the existing road network to help drivers beat the jams.
“The trial on the M42 showed it really makes a difference - cutting people’s journey times and giving business and commuters the reliability they need. That’s why we’re today extending it to more of the motorway network around Birmingham, and looking at where else around the country we can offer this as a solution,” she said.
A further 500 miles of motorway are being considered for hard shoulder running, part of the Highways Agency’s £6bn programme of road widening and congestion busting.
Highways Agency network operations director Derek Turner said: “We are looking to keep all three lanes open during construction, especially during busy periods, to help limit any delays to road users. We will need to close the motorway for short periods but we will do this overnight and will publicise it well in advance.
“When completed, this scheme will bring benefits to road users across the West Midlands and the country as a whole.”
The scheme will be expanded around Birmingham in two phases:
Phase 1 (August 2008 to end 2009)
- M40 Junctions 16 - M42 Junction 3A. Variable speed limits.
- M42 Junctions 7 - 9. Variable speed limits
- M6 Junctions 4 - 5. Variable speed limits and hard shoulder running, with the exception of 4A - 4 southbound, where variable speed limits alone will be used.
Phase 2 (early 2009 to spring 2011)
- M6 Junction 8 - 10A. Variable speed limits and hard shoulder running.