Page last updated at 11:12 GMT, Wednesday, 8 July 2009 12:12 UK

M25 widening to four lanes begins

The start of the widening of the M25 has been officially marked by Transport Minister Sadiq Khan.

Mr Khan was at Denham, Buckinghamshire, where a section of the motorway is to be widened from three lanes to four.

The £580m project covers a 22-mile (35km) stretch between junction 16 and junction 23, where the motorway meets the A1M in Hertfordshire.

Mr Khan said the "vital" scheme would "tackle the nuisance of congestion" which has grown 40% since work began.

The widening is part of a £6.2bn, 30-year work-and-maintenance contract for the M25.

'Boost to economy'

Mr Khan said: "Today marks a major step forward in our commitment to building Britain's future and increasing capacity on the busiest sections of motorways and trunk roads.

"This vital scheme will tackle the nuisance of congestion, improve journey time reliability and safety and help boost the productivity of our businesses.

"Everyone who uses these important stretches of motorway, whether business or leisure travellers, will benefit from the massive investment."

He described the work as a "huge boost to the economy", with between 3,500 and 4,000 people employed in construction until 2012.

Another 850 people will also work on the project.

Work to widen another section of the M25 - the 16-mile stretch from junction 27 at the M11 to the Dartford River Crossing - will begin later this month.

'Sorely needed'

Both sections are due to be completed before the Olympics in 2012.

A spokesman for Trafficmaster, which monitors traffic flow across the UK, said when the works began in June, congestion increased by 40% compared with the same period last year.

However, he added that it was not known whether this was caused by the works or seasonal holiday traffic.

The RAC Foundation said motorists were "between a rock and a hard place".

"The extra road capacity the widening will bring is sorely needed - but unfortunately before the congestion eventually eases, it is likely to get worse as the building work takes place," a spokesman added.

"The shame is that road building has been ignored for so long and the jams have got depressingly common."

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