The Highways Agency’s plans to turn a long stretch of the M1 into a managed motorway have been met with concern by drivers.
The scheme will see the hard shoulder of the M1 converted into a permanent traffic lane over a 19-mile section between junction 28 at South Normanton and junction 31, near Worksop in Nottinghamshire.
The hard shoulder between the junction slip roads will also be converted to a full-time running lane in both directions to allow more traffic to flow during busy times and variable mandatory speed limits, displayed on overhead and verge-mounted signs, will be in place.
There motorway will also be adapted further north between junctions 32 and 35a, near Sheffield, and junction 39 to 42, near Wakefield, while the scheme follows one already up and running on the M42 in the Midlands, and a scheme which is currently be implemented on the M62 in West Yorkshire.
But drivers say they are concerned that the transformation of the hard shoulder will make it difficult for the emergency services to reach the scenes of accidents.
One driver, Charlotte Deane said: “With no hard shoulder how on earth are people going to get to safety if they breakdown? Drivers sometimes hit cars on the hard shoulder so goodness knows what will happen when there isn’t one.”
Another, Barry Dyke said: “How will emergency services get to accidents in busy times if the hard shoulder is blocked with traffic. They should build a fourth lane instead.”
But Dan Tank, Highways Agency project manager for the M1 J28 to J31 scheme, said the work was needed to increase capacity on the motorway.
“We’ve used our experience of successfully operating managed motorways in the West Midlands to produce an updated design which would see the hard shoulder permanently converted to a running lane, with fewer overhead structures such as gantries,” he said.
“This will provide the additional capacity required without compromising overall safety.
“By being a managed motorway, this section of the M1 will provide much needed additional capacity, easing congestion and making journey times more reliable for the 95,000 road users who depend on the route each day - this in turn will support economic growth.
“We know this will be a totally new concept for many people, so we want to listen to any comments and answer questions that members of the public and local residents may have about the scheme, such as how it will operate, what to do if they break down and how we plan to deliver the improvements. We will carefully respond to everything that is raised.”