Tests start on smart motorway between M1 junctions 28 and 31

The M1.

The M1.

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Highways chiefs have started testing for a new smart motorway which is due to go live between junctions 28 and 31 of the M1 at the end of March

Highways England said the testing will take place in stages along each stretch between junctions and a 50mph speed restriction will be in place during the tests for safety reasons.

The £205million smart motorway scheme will see the hard shoulder permanently converted to an extra lane to increase capacity and variable speed limits will also be used to keep traffic moving.

Once successful testing is complete, the speed restriction will be lifted and all four lanes will operate at 70mph.

Andy Kirk, senior project lead at Highways England, said: “The tests will allow us to gather reliable traffic data and calibrate the technology systems along this stretch."

Fears have been raised that scrapping the hard shoulder could lead to more accidents.

Speaking to BBC Radio Sheffield, Keith Lumley, a retired police officer and former chair of South Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership, said: "The most significant cause of serious and fatal collisions on a motorway is where there is a high impact collision with a stationary vehicle. With no hard shoulder, the chance of such collisions will increase."

However, Highways England dismissed those claims.