Page last updated at 16:03 GMT, Wednesday, 16 July 2008 17:03 UK

6bn to target M-way congestion

Motorway traffic
The AA says traffic congestion costs the country 20bn a year

A 6 billion package of measures aimed at easing motorway congestion in England has been announced.

The use of hard-shoulders by traffic during busy periods will be extended.

The system already successfully operates on the M42 near Birmingham, where cameras are used to ensure broken down vehicles are moved quickly.

Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly said she would also investigate the possibility of introducing toll and car-sharing lanes, which are used in America.

New locations where hard shoulder use is to be introduced include the M3 and M4 approaches to London, the M4 and M5 around Bristol and the M3 and M27 around Southampton.

Eight areas will also receive a share of a 60 million congestion-easing fund - Bristol, Greater Manchester, Leicester, London, Merseyside, South Yorkshire, Tyne and Wear and the West Midlands.

Up to 6bn for national roads up to 2014 to cut congestion, support economic growth and improve road safety
A 60m congestion-easing fund for eight areas, including Greater Manchester, Leicester and London
Funding for Leeds, Cambridgeshire and Reading to tackle congestion and introduce possible charging schemes
Investigation of dedicated lane use
8m to help local authorities manage their transport assets more effectively

In addition, Leeds, Cambridgeshire and Reading, in Berkshire, will receive funding to tackle congestion combined with possible local congestion charging.

As part of its announcement, the government also said motorway widening would start within the next three years on the M1 in Hertfordshire and Nottinghamshire, and on the M25 in Kent.

Trunk roads will also be upgraded to motorway standard on the A1 between Bramham and Wetherby, in West Yorkshire, and the M6 extension of the A74 between Carlisle and Guardsmill in Cumbria.

Ms Kelly said as the majority of congestion was in towns and cities, the answer was not to build new roads.

"That is why I will continue to support councils who want to investigate whether radical packages, which include public transport improvements combined with local congestion charging, would be the right solution for them," she said.

'Reliable journeys'

Edmund King, of the AA, said he thought motorists would find it "encouraging" the government was trying to address the problem of motorway queues.

He said: "Congestion is costing us more than 20bn a year and we've seen in the West Midlands that hard-shoulder running, if it's managed well, can work fairly effectively.

It's just another plan to increase traffic on our roads, which won't solve congestion and will pump out another 300,000 tonnes of CO2
Richard George
Campaign for Better Transport

"It can make for more reliable journeys and, as long as safety isn't compromised when it's rolled out, I think it will be something that most motorists will support."

Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: "We support the scheme being rolled out to more locations, provided the locations are suitable and there is the same infrastructure."

He said there needed to be emergency refuges, active speed limit signs, instructions to drivers about when they could and could not drive on the hard shoulder, and the lowering of the speed limit when that happened.

But the Campaign for Better Transport said it was "misleading" to suggest using the hard shoulder would solve congestion.

Climate campaigner Richard George said: "It's just another plan to increase traffic on our roads, which won't solve congestion and will pump out another 300,000 tonnes of CO2.

"The government's own research shows that rolling out hard-shoulder running on this scale will increase CO2 and traffic levels - at a time when we must reduce CO2 to tackle climate change."

Research carried out during a pilot hard shoulder scheme on an 11-mile (17.7km) stretch of the M42 near Birmingham showed a reduction in congestion, carbon emissions and fuel consumption.

A report by the Department for Transport added that the drop in individual vehicle emissions under the scheme would be outweighed by the emissions created by more traffic travelling at greater speeds.

But it said this would still have a lower impact on the environment than road widening.

active traffic management scheme

1 Computer-controlled sensors in road detect increased traffic and feed data back to control centre
2 Mandatory speed limit imposed to protect queuing traffic and smooth flows
3 Information signs warn or advise drivers of hazards/lane use
4 Overhead signal indicates when hard shoulder is open to traffic
5 Hard shoulder to be used for travel between consecutive junctions
6 Broken-down vehicles use emergency refuge areas to ensure hard shoulder remains clear
7 Controllers use CCTV and sensors to monitor hard shoulder for obstructions/debris and can manually override ATM system
Other safety improvements include highly visible roadside emergency phones (8) located behind safety barriers, and lighting (9) at more frequent intervals along entire stretch of motorway

Improvements to reduce M4 queues
26 Mar 08 |  Berkshire
M1 car-share lane plans 'dropped'
25 Mar 08 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts

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