Life in the car pool lane: M1 widening
13 March 2006

Californian-style car pool lanes are coming to the UK motorway network. Widening work is due to begin on the M1 next week between the junction with the M25 and Luton exit and a car pool lane will be added at the same time.

The work is expected to take just over two years and, once completed, the extra lane will be reserved during peak hours for vehicles with one or more passengers on board. At the moment, the Highways Agency is yet to decide exactly how the new scheme will be enforced, or at what specific times it will operate.

The Government hopes that car pool lanes will help reduce the rate of growth in congestion.

But a recent study by Berkeley University in California suggests that the car pool lanes in California are underused, and that average journey times have actually increased as a result.

The study found that up to 2200 vehicles can travel at the speed limit along a motorway lane without experiencing congestion, but that car pool lanes can only support up to 1600 vehicles before progress is slowed.

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Edmund King, Director of the RAC Foundation, also expressed concerns about the experiment, suggesting that the varied destinations and departure points of many motorists would result in only limited scope for car sharing. He also suggested that “if the M1 experiment adds to congestion due to under-utilisation as experienced in the US, then the car pool lane should become a regular motorway lane.”

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