Page last updated at 01:14 GMT, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Second hard shoulder scheme opens

A motorway congestion sign on the M6
Motorway signs tell drivers when they can use the hard shoulder

A second stretch of a motorway hard shoulder has opened for motorists to use during busy times.

The seven-mile stretch of the M6, between junctions four and five, opened after ministers said a pilot on the M42 had proved successful.

The stretch, by Birmingham, opened for rush hour traffic at 0630 GMT.

Transport minister Chris Mole has also announced plans to improve the existing scheme on the M42 between junctions six and four.

Reliable journeys

He said junction five, by Solihull, would be the first in the UK where drivers would be able to continue driving along the hard shoulder without having to leave the motorway at the slip road.

Mr Mole said it would mean there would be a continuous four-lane section of motorway on the southbound carriageway between junction six at Hampton-in-Arden and four at Dorridge, West Midlands.

That so-called "through-junction running" will start on 9 December.

The pilot scheme on the M42, which includes the stretch from junctions 3a to seven, has been running for the past three years.

The Highways Agency said the trial had shown drivers had more reliable journey times and a there had been a fall in accident numbers - from an average of 5.1 a month to 1.8 a month.

A spokesman said the exact times during which the hard shoulder on the M6 would be available to use would vary according to the amount of traffic.

Businesses rely on the UK motorway network to transport their goods and need to be able to rely on the time it will take to make each journey
Ian Austin, regional minister

However, he said it would be used in the early morning and evening.

The new M6 hard shoulder scheme is opening a month ahead of schedule.

A total of 96 lane signals, 24 driver information signs and 23 overhead gantries have been installed on the motorway to cope with vehicles on the hard shoulder.

Regional minister Ian Austin said: "These improvements are vital in supporting the economy, especially in these challenging times.

"Businesses rely on the UK motorway network to transport their goods and need to be able to rely on the time it will take to make each journey."

The hard shoulder scheme is being extended to the M6 between junction eight at Great Barr, Birmingham, and the junction with the M54 at 10a at Essington, Staffordshire.

That is expected to open in spring 2011.


BBC reporter Giles Latcham took a trip on the M6 after a stretch of the hard shoulder opened for motorists during busy times

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