Drivers need ‘smart’ thinking on M25 with no hard shoulder
A third more road space on one of the UK’s busiest sections of motorway will ease the daily stress of hundreds of thousands of drivers. However, they will have to come to terms with there being no hard shoulder and a need to follow strictly speed and lane instructions, says the AA.
England’s first* ‘all-lane running’ (no hard shoulder) motorway, opens on Monday 14 April and should be treated with caution by drivers who are urged to stick to speed limits and follow breakdown advice to the letter.
The first-ever section of English motorway without a hardshoulder* (M25 junction 23-25) marks a significant shift in UK motorway policy: rather than conventional widening, ‘making best use’ now uses existing carriageway with technology controlling traffic. It is much cheaper but can hopefully safely provide the desperately needed extra capacity to reduce chronic congestion.
However, whilst it welcomes the congestion-busting aspects of the scheme the AA has significant reservations, because permanent hard shoulder removal means that breakdowns and other emergencies could take place in a live traffic lane rather than the hard shoulder.
In an AA-Populus poll** 63% of the 21,510 respondents agreed they would be more nervous driving on a motorway with no hard shoulder.
In the poll 87% also agreed that having hard shoulders are what make motorways safe.
A further 77% disagreed that because modern cars are more reliable hard shoulders are not needed.
the Highways Agency has gone to great lengths to minimise risk and build-in safety, though we do believe it has cut back too hard on the technology used in the successful M42 pilot scheme
Paul Watters, AA head of roads policy
“Motorways are our safest roads and that is how we want it to stay. New ‘Smart’ motorways depend on drivers complying with the rules of the road and safety advice. Safety also depends on a rapid response to incidents on the part of the road operator and technology,” says Paul Watters, the AA’s head of roads policy.
“We know the Highways Agency has gone to great lengths to minimise risk and build-in safety, though we do believe it has cut back too hard on the technology used in the successful M42 pilot scheme. For example, on M25 there will be far fewer gantries and the emergency refuge area spacing is too great at 2.5 kilometres.
“At least the drivers trapped by regular chronic congestion on the M25 may breathe a sigh of relief but those unfortunate enough to be stopped in lane one may take a sharp intake of breath on occasions.”
(11 April 2014)
* the M42 scheme which opened in 2006 has 'hard shoulder running' but is a fully flexible ‘controlled’ motorway - it has a hard shoulder which can be opened and closed, variable speed limits, lane control, overhead gantries, and emergency refuge areas.
**AA-Populus poll,15-19 April 2013