A 'smart motorways scheme' - formerly known as managed motorway - has been proposed by the Highway Agency, designed to cut congestion and improve journey times on parts of the M60 and M62 in Greater Manchester.
The smart motorways scheme – the first of its kind in the North West – will be introduced on a 17-mile stretch of the network between Junction 8 of the M60 near Sale and Junction 20 of the M62 near Rochdale.
The system will use the latest technology to monitor traffic levels, provide traffic information to road users, and ease congestion by using variable speed limits on overhead signs.
The hard shoulder will also be permanently converted into an extra lane on a five-mile stretch of the M62 between Junctions 18 and 20 to provide extra capacity on the part of the motorway which links the North West to Yorkshire.
Emergency refuge areas will be created on this section of motorway with overhead signs used to alert motorists of lane closures and incidents ahead, clearing lanes to allow emergency vehicles to get through.
The Highways Agency is also analysing the environmental impact of increasing lane capacity between Junctions 8 and 15 of the M60, which is currently made up of two and three-lane carriageways. This could include converting the hard
shoulder to an extra lane, but the potential impact on local communities will need further assessment to ensure there is no adverse impact to the local environment.
Designed to support economic growth by alleviating congestion
The scheme, which has a current cost-range of £190 million to £267 million, is designed to support economic growth by alleviating congestion, which is estimated to cost the economy £2 billion every year.
A similar project recently completed on the M62 near Leeds is claimed to have been welcomed by road users and local businesses as it is making journeys better and reducing congestion.
According to Jacqui Allen, Senior Project Manager at the Highways Agency "More than 180,000 vehicles use the section of motorway between Junction 8 of the M60 and Junction 20 of the M62 every day, causing heavy congestion and unpredictable journey times.
"The new smart motorway system will help tackle these issues as well as improving safety on the network."
“It may seem odd that reducing speed limits can also reduce journey times, but evidence shows that it does exactly that. By encouraging everyone to drive at similar speeds, it brings an end to the stop-start conditions most motorists will have experienced during busy times."
When the smart motorways scheme is completed, more than 300 new electronic signs on the M60 and M62 will warn drivers of changes in the mandatory speed limit, lane closures, and incidents ahead.
Around 50 new CCTV cameras will also be used to monitor traffic levels from the Highways Agency’s Regional Control Centre at Newton-le-Willows in Merseyside.
Work on the project is due to start in summer 2014 (subject to the completion of statutory processes), and to be completed in 2016/17.
Real-time traffic information
Real-time traffic information for England’s motorways and other strategic roads is available:
From the web at www.highways.gov.uk/traffic or from a phone or mobile device at m.highways.gov.uk
By phone from the Highways Agency Information Line on 0300 123 5000 at any time.
On an iPhone app which will automatically select the region you are in. Free to download from the iTunes store or search for Highways Agency on your device.
From Twitter – there are eight feeds with live traffic information provided by region. For information on roads in the North West, follow us at @HAtrafficnwest or for the full index visit www.highways.gov.uk/twitter