New trial begins on M6 near Birmingham
1 December 2009

A new hard shoulder running scheme has been launched on the M6 near Birmingham.

The scheme covers a seven-mile stretch of road between junction 4 – Coleshill, and junction 5 - Castle Bromwich.

In addition to allowing hard shoulder running, road users will be able to drive along the motorway hard shoulder between junction slip roads. Previously drivers were required to exit the hard shoulder upon approaching the exit.

The scheme follows the successful M42 pilot of a similar scheme at junction 5 near Solihull.

During the pilot phase of the M42 project concerns were raised over the safety of hard shoulder running. However, latest figures have revealed that accidents have been reduced from an average of 5.1 a month to 1.8 since the scheme's introduction.

Karl Berridge

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1 December 2009

I use the M6 around Birmingham nearly every day, & seeing cars broken down on the hard shoulder is a regular occurence. My mother recently had a tyre blow out- thankfully she was on the M6 toll where there isnt much traffic. She keeps her car well maintained but drove over some debris in the road (or so we think), She was luckily able to keep control of her car & stop on the hard shoulder.

Imagine the same scenario if she was driving on the congested M6 with hard shoulder running. Even if she was already in the leftmost lane, having to come to an abrupt halt with a lorry behind her doing 60mph would obviously lead to an accident. Lorries cannot stop as fast as cars can, especially a car with a blown out tyre. In the circumstances I have described, it would be a miracle if only my mums car & the lorry were involved- much more likely this would lead to a huge multi-car pile-up.

I dread to think of the consequences of this ludicrous scheme. Mark my words, somebody WILL die as a result of hard shoulder running, and then the whole thing will be scrapped. I certainly am not against something being done to alleviate congestion- but the hard shoulder is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL, in my mind, for safety on motorways, & safety MUST surely take priority.

1 December 2009

Errrrr read above, the number of accidents has greatly reduced in the areas where active traffic management has been introduced.

Also by your logic dual carriageways would be lethal due to their lack of a hard shoulder. Also a significant number of the deaths that occur on motorways are due to people being struck while trying to work on cars on the hard shoulder.

Finally, a car with a blown tyre should be allowed to coast to a stop without using the brakes. Also having only 3 working wheels generally results in cars stopping rather poorly, rather worse I would suggest than a lorry which usually stops within twice the distance of a fully functional car.

When the hard shoulder is being used the traffic flow is controlled by the varible speed limits. This makes the trafic move at a uniform velocity and in a predicable manner, it is very easy to spot a car stopping rapidly in such situations.

In the event of a breakdown every meter of the road is monitored by CCTV and the hard shoulder is closed and vehicles directed around it. The down stream traffic velocity is also slowed to reduce the bottleneck effects.

In short the system works.

1 December 2009

I would have to disagree, no amount of government statistics will persuade me that a motorway with no hard shoulder is safer than a motorway with a hard shoulder, & I am sure anyone who has ever had cause to use a hard shoulder (Im sure 90% of us have at some point, surely? I know I have) would disagree. If we were to go on these statistics which state hard shoulder running causes a REDUCTION in accidents, then surely we should get rid of all hard shoulders immediately, as they are obviously a hazard???? I dont think so.

Motorways were dreamt up decades ago, & even with the volume of traffic then they put hard shoulders on them for a reason. They are an essential safety feature, & as for the tyre blowout scenario I described, which my mum experienced, if that happened to you you would be grateful for a hard shoulder. Thats more important than statistics.

1 December 2009

In my experience ( I use the M42 stretch a lot) its safer because the maniacs (or dodgy software) that controls the variable limits seem to have a default setting of on, making it a near permanent stretch of 50mph motorway and not 80-100mph. Accidents tend to be quickly managed bumps rather than full closure, resurfacing-required disasters.

If they are feeling playful (or short of revenue?) you get long stretches at 50mph then they throw in a random 40mph speed camera limit, next sign it goes back up to 50/60.

In truth the section works better than it used to. The issue with the new M6 bit is that its another large stretch of motorway armed with cameras. The M42 scheme has already 'crept' further out up toward the Toll road and out onto the M40 approaches. If its shown to make money and cut accidents, what argument can stop the 'creep' becoming near national? then the switch is flicked and the motorway network becomes a strictly enforced 50mph (or lower) system.

One morning you will find yourself telling your grandchildren about the good old days when people used to drive at 80mph and get there much quicker.

1 December 2009

The benefit of a hard shoulder is obvious, and one has to say that had they not been invented we would be suggesting them now as a safety feature on busy motorways. So to make a decision to include them as part of the highway has to be seen as a backward step. A few years ago I was deep in conversation with a local council road 'designer'. He had just altered a four-crossway road junction and inevitably there had been a nasty accident due to that very re-design. He told me that it was something he had to live with as part of his job. I told him that in that case I couldn't do his job - despite the fact that I believed I would be better at his job than he was. I could not decide to implement a design or a policy which then resulted in someone's death. Imagine if it were the death of a child.

Whilst there is no doubt that we are used to dual carriageways without hard shoulders, nevertheless, we must have all travelled on some when we wished there were such refuges - the A303 being just one. It seems odd that councils all over the country have been forced to adopt safety measures which include replacing roundabouts with signals, and 'zebra' crossings with signalled ones - all to enhance road safety. Yet here we are removing a fine safety feature which, over the years, must have saved thousands of lives.

There will be deaths directly as a result of this policy, and then a re-think will be decided. A group of people will meet somewhere in a room and decide that, on balance, this wasn't a good idea. In these litigious days it may even be because the family of a victim have sued. I hope that court case actually happens, because I believe that people should be held to account for foolish actions. It's a shame that, as a species, we seem to have to learn by making mistakes which cost lives, when the sense not to make that mistake in the first place is inherent.

1 December 2009

As another user of the M42, I think your fears are well meaning but groundless. I commuted every day on the M42 before the hard shoulder running was introduced, during its construction, and after its implementation. There is no question in my mind that the M42 is a much safer place to be now, despite the fact that it is carrying vastly more traffic, and is busy for a much longer period of the day than it was 5 years ago.

Before the introduction of the scheme, a crash seemed an almost daily occurrence, usually in lane 3 and usually just before an exit. They seemed to be caused by the OUT OF MY WAY drivers in lane 3 being caught out by the traffic concertina-ring to a stop as the volume of traffic entering at a junction caused the motorway to slow. This seems to have been fixed by the combination of the variable speed limits to regulate the impatient drivers, and the hard shoulder running to allow entry an exit from the motorway in a more controlled fashion. In my opinion, eliminating or mitigating the frequency and magnitude of those pileups is a very welcome improvement to both the safety and efficiency of the M42.

The hard shoulder only appears to be used for driving when speed limits are regulated to below 70MPH, and cars seem to leave larger stopping distances than before. As a previous correspondent has pointed out, there are very few things on a car (blow out included) that will force you to make an immediate emergency stop. Besides which, unless you happen to be in lane 1 at the time, you've still got to manage your way across one or two lanes of traffic before you can even reach the hard shoulder. The hard shoulder is a useful refuge for when your car won't make it to the next exit - that continues to be the case even with hard shoulder running.

1 December 2009

The only time I have used the hard shoulder is when stopped by the police for speeding! get rid of them I say!!!

1 December 2009

There is one point that seems to be missed by those concerned about the lack of a hard shoulder and that is that there are 'safe areas' built into the side of the hard shoulder. These are effectively places where you can pull into if your car develops a fault whilst on the hard shoulder or the motorway itself. You are not likely to be left stranded on the hard shoulder with vehicles travelling on it.

The main reason for the hard shoulder running is actually to keep the flow of the traffic moving, rather than add extra capacity. It works very well on the M42 and although it can be a bit frustrating sticking to the 50 mph when you need to get a move on, it is much better than the constant stop-start we used to have.

1 December 2009

I also use the M42 in that stretch regularly and the system works. The hard shoulder is only brought into action when the speed is down to 50mph anyway, and all the lanes are moving at a steady speed. I look forward to when it finally opens on the M6 too (its taken them long enough to install!).

There are refuges built every few hundred yards if someone breaks down, and the system of gantries that has to be installed makes it very easy for them to quickly close a lane if a blockage occurs. It's definitely safer and improves traffic flow enormously.

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