WORK is due to start next year on a long-awaited scheme to cut congestion on South Yorkshire’s busiest motorway, the Government has announced.
Plans to widen the M1 near Sheffield and Chesterfield by allowing motorists to use the hard shoulder were first announced by the previous Labour government in 2008.
The proposals were then thrown into doubt when the coalition came into power last May, with the Department for Transport including the project in their spending review as they tried to find 25 per cent savings.
But now Roads Minister Mike Penning has announced the scheme will go ahead, with work to start in the 2012/13 financial year.
The project, which will stretch from junction 35a at Chapeltown to junction 28 south of Chesterfield, is one of 14 highways schemes that will go ahead before 2015, the minister said.
Mr Penning added: “These schemes will deliver vital investment across the strategic road network, driving economic growth and boosting the UK economy.
“They will also provide much-needed additional capacity, easing congestion and making journey times more reliable for road users, including hauliers and commuters.
“For every pound invested on these schemes on average we will get back £7 of benefits to the economy, with some delivering even higher returns.”
Opening up the hard shoulder at peak times is a cheap alternative to adding new lanes. Initially it was estimated to cost £6 million per kilometre to open up the hard shoulder, compared to £20m per kilometre to add an extra lane.
Mr Penning said work will start in 2012/13 between junctions 35a and 32, the stretch between Chapeltown and Thurcroft. The project will be extended to Chesterfield by 2015, eventually reaching junction 28 at Alfreton.