Speaking to NCE, Highways Agency chief executive Graham Dalton said: "We are working to identify which schemes will use Hard Shoulder Running (ATM) and when. We are getting recommendations to ministers up to Christmas, and we expect a fairly rapid response."
ATM allows drivers to use the motorway hard shoulder during congested periods but but with the speed limit reduced.
Dalton said ATM had been proved to reduce uncertainty in journey times. "I would like to pull out a handful – somewhere between 1 and 5 - of schemes to get some early progress.
"We will also be looking at other enabling or preparatory works we can crunch out for a number of schemes. If we have to strengthen the hard shoulder in a lot of places, I do not want to do it piecemeal. If we can do a programme of hard shoulder strengthening and take it off the critical path programme, then we will go and do it.
"If we are able to commit to the full programme, then we will get some more innovative procurement arrangements in place to deliver a programme of work, rather than a series of jobs," he said.