Tag Archives: Highways England

Are Smart Motorways Safe?

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An AA poll shows 8 out of 10 drivers think removal of hard shoulder for Smart Motorway makes motorway more dangerous.

According to an AA Populus poll of 20,845 drivers, eight out of 10 drivers believe that in comparison to four years ago, they feel the Smart Motorways have made motorways more dangerous, with some describing emergency lay-bys as “death zones”.

Guidance from Highways England says stopping places are to be no more than 1.6 miles apart on motorways where the hard shoulder can be opened to traffic during busy periods, but the AA have said drivers have made it “abundantly clear” that they feel this is insufficient.

Drivers feel that this is not enough to avoid broken down vehicles being forced to stop in live running lanes, with the danger of being hit from behind.

When asked by AA to describe their thoughts on the lay-bys, phrases such as “death zones”, “foolish planners’ promised land” and “desperate unreachable havens” were used.

The motoring company have said that they would like to see twice as many lay-bys and they should be twice the length.

Officials have been keen to press ahead with smart motorway projects, which are already in operation on sections of the M42, M1, M6, M4 and M5.

Highways England say Smart Motorways tackle congestion, which costs an estimated £2Bn every year, with 25% of this resulting from incidents.

Analysis gathered by Highways England since the opening of Smart Motorways shows a 22% increase in journey reliability, a reduction in personal injury accidents by more than half, and where accidents did occur, severity was much lower overall with zero fatalities and few seriously injured.

Proposed site for Operation Stack lorry area announced

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Transport Secretary has announced proposed site for Operation Stack lorry area to be created near Stanford in Kent.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has announced that a new lorry area will be created near Stanford in Kent, to ease issues caused by Operation Stack and provide a long term solution to problems on the M20 and surrounding roads.

The new lorry area will help keep the M20 moving during cross-channel services, avoiding the level of disruption that comes with Operation Stack, which has caused issues for companies and other drivers and residents.

Operation Stack was used on a record 32 days last year as the area was hit with unprecedented disruption in the summer, which was followed by the Autumn Statement, in which the government announced it would be providing up to £250M for a permanent lorry area.

Lorry_area2.jpgChancellor George Osborne said: “We are taking bold action to deal with the severe inconvenience suffered by people living and working in Kent when cross-channel services are affected.

“A long-term solution that will keep traffic moving has been talked about for decades, but now we are delivering it. I look forward to construction starting as soon as possible.

Patrick McLoughlin, Secretary of State for Transport, said: “Operation Stack is only ever used as a last resort but we recognise the impact it has on roads in Kent, and are determined to deliver an alternative solution.

“The new lorry area by the M20 will deliver better journeys for drivers and will not only support the region’s economy but also businesses as far away as Scotland that rely on the M20 to access the Port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel.

“We have committed up to £250 million for the lorry area and we are now making it a reality.”

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A total of 3,600 lorries will be able to park in the area, with the government looking at the idea of overnight parking to prevent drivers parking in unsuitable or illegal positions.

Balfour Beatty have been appointed as lead contractor for the project, which is west of the M20 junction 11 at Stanford West.

New entry and exit slip roads will be built on the eastbound carriageway, providing direct access to the lorry park.

Jim O’Sullivan, Highways England Chief Executive said: “The Secretary of State has asked us to progress a lorry area between Sellindge and Stanford. Direct access from the M20 means less lorries using local roads.

“We will work closely with residents and local stakeholders to ensure the design of the new lorry area minimises its social and environmental impact, while meeting the wider need to address this issue for Kent and the UK.”

Written responses were provided by 1,300 people, along with more than 1,000 drivers, residents and workers attending eight public events during the consultation on the lorry park.

The majority of people supported the idea, with less than a quarter thinking that Operation Stack should continue in its current form. The next step with be a consultation on the details and environmental impact the scheme will have.

Highways England release video of bridge demolition

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Highways England has released footage of the demolition of a bridge over the A38 near Plymouth.

The demolition of the old Merafield Bridge at Plympton took place overnight on Saturday, signalling the final phase of the £6.3M maintenance project on the A38.

The bridge was in need of replacing due to suffering from alkali silica reaction, commonly known in the construction industry as ‘concrete cancer’.

Around 50kg of explosives were used along 278 drilled locations centred on the supporting piers and the abutments at each end of the structure.

As some segments of the old bridge were not fully broken up during the demolition work continued into Sunday to break up and remove the remaining parts.

Highways England South West Regional Director, Andrew Page-Dove commented: “This was a big project that needed extensive planning to ensure traffic around Plymouth was kept flowing smoothly and the vital A38 transport link between Devon, Plymouth and South East Cornwall was maintained.

“We worked very closely with Plymouth City Council, the Plymouth and Devon Chamber of Commerce and local businesses to ensure we got the traffic management right and we are very grateful for all the support we’ve received.”

Two weeks ago, a new bridge that was built alongside the old one was opened.

The new structure is 80m long, 11m wide and consists of 2,503 tonnes of concrete and 401 tonnes of steel.

Transport Minister Andrew Jones said: “It’s vital that we replace out-of-date infrastructure so we can keep traffic moving and I am pleased Highways England has delivered this new bridge over the A38 on time and on budget.

“As well as tackling congestion, our investment in England’s motorways and major A-roads is about keeping communities connected through projects like this.”

The scheme is due to be fully complete by July meaning that the region shouldn’t be affected during the busy holiday season.