The government has made plans to cancel the widening of more than 220 miles of motorway in favour of hard-shoulder running schemes.
The dramatic policy U-turn will save the government over £5bn, as hard-shoulder running is significantly cheaper than road widening; it costs an estimated £10m per mile, compared with £40m per mile for conventional expansion.
Widening schemes for sections of the M6, M62, M25 and M1 will now be replaced by the hard-shoulder running system currently in place on a small section of the M42.
Sections of the M40 and M42 will be updated to allow motorists to use the hard shoulder at peak times by the end of the year, along with the section between junctions 4 and 5 of the M6.
Other sections of the M6 (Junction 8 to junction 10a), as well as portions of the M62, M60 and M1, will be converted by 2012.
The plans will also involve the ‘emergency refuge areas’ that are currently 500m apart on the M42 trial section, but placed further apart at 800m intervals. The idea is to make them seem less abundant to discourage people from using them for non-emergency reasons.
Overhead gantries used to monitor and inform people using the hard shoulder will also be spaced further apart.
The government has earmarked around 340 miles of motorway for hard-shoulder running as part of improvements to the road network scheduled for completion by 2015.