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Monday 24 December 2007
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Drivers to use hard shoulder


By Andrew Porter, Political Editor
Last Updated: 2:38am BST 24/10/2007

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Drivers on the busiest motorways are to be allowed to use the hard shoulder to help ease traffic congestion.

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    Drivers to use hard shoulder to help ease congestion
    The scheme is regarded as an easier and cheaper option than lane widening

    Ruth Kelly, the Transport Secretary, will this week point to the success of a pilot scheme on the M42 in the West Midlands.

    She is expected to say on Thursday that the scheme will be extended to other motorways.

    At peak times signs will instruct motorists to use the lane which is normally out of bounds to all but broken-down vehicles.

    The move is regarded as an easier and cheaper option than lane widening. Roads where the scheme is to be introduced within the next two years include the M25, the M4, the M20, the M1 and the M6.

    The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) said it had reservations about the changes when they were introduced in Birmingham.

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    In particular, it fears that motorists who break down will have nowhere to stop in safety.

    There is also concern about how emergency services will be able to get to accidents quickly.

    However, ministers and the Highways Agency will say that overhead signs can be changed in seconds if there is an accident and traffic can be directed elsewhere.

    CCTV cameras will be used to get help to stricken vehicles.

    To allay fears about safety, ministers will outline how lay-bys — "emergency refuge areas" — will be built at regular intervals beyond the hard shoulder.

    The scheme on the M42 saw drivers able to use the hard shoulder on an 11-mile stretch from south of Birmingham and through Warwickshire. A 50mph speed limit was imposed by signs on gantries.

    Sensors to measure the volume of traffic were placed every 100 metres in the motorway. If traffic built up cars were instructed to use the hard shoulder.

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