A week today motorists in the West Midlands will become the first in Britain to use the hard shoulder as a running lane to cut congestion during busy periods.
Roads minister Stephen Ladyman said the scheme is an important part of a package of measures the Highways Agency is using to cut congestion in the West Midlands.'This flexible approach to opening and closing all motorway lanes, including the hard shoulder, to manage traffic shows how innovation and the latest technology can be used to cut congestion.'The initiative is part of a £100M Highways Agency scheme called 'Active Traffic Management', which aims to help keep the traffic moving by making the best possible use of the space available on our motorways. Drivers between Junction 3A (the M40) and Junction 7 (the M6) will be directed to drive on the hard shoulder at times of peak congestion by hi-tech electronic signs. When the hard shoulder is in use a maximum 50 mph speed limit will be applied to all lanesEmergency refuge areas are provided behind the hard shoulder every 500m to ensure people whose vehicles have broken down have a safe area away from the traffic. The Highways Agency has also worked closely with the emergency services on this scheme. Individual lanes, including the hard shoulder, can be opened and closed by Highways Agency operators by simply displaying a red 'X' on the electronic lane signals. This flexible approach allows immediate lane closures to ensure safe emergency services access in the event of a major incident.The M42 between Junction 3A and 7 is a key part of the national motorway network and is one of the most heavily congested stretches in the country. Around 125,000 vehicles use the section every day and it serves key local attractions such as the National Exhibition Centre and Birmingham International Airport.