GOVERNMENT plans to use the hard shoulder of the M1 as a fourth lane on heavily congested stretches near Sheffield have been welcomed by councillors and hauliers.
The proposals are due to be in a report being put together by the Department for Transport, set to be published in the autumn.
Hard shoulder running, already operated as an experiment on the M42 around Birmingham, is proposed for 19 sections of motorway across the country as an alternative to costlier widening schemes.
The sections proposed include the M1 between junctions 28 and 31, from Alfreton, Derbyshire, to Aston, on the edge of Sheffield, and between junctions 32 at Thurcroft and 35a at Chapeltown. Both stretches of the M1 were set to be widened but the Government cancelled the project on cost grounds.
Sections of the M1 have been widened to four lanes between junctions 31 and 32 and junctions 25 and 28.
Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for transport Coun Leigh Bramall said: “In principal we would welcome anything that improves transport for the area, eases congestion and makes life easier for businesses and ordinary motorists.”
The news was also given a cautious welcome by Mark Smithson, who runs a small road haulage business at Barugh Green, in Barnsley.
He said: “We are only a small operation, with six lorries, and have been going for 21 years. During that time, congestion has become worse - there’s just more and more traffic.
“We now try to work early or late to avoid peak times so our drivers do not get caught in jams.
“The sections of the M1 where this is proposed are very busy. I’d say the best solution would be to build a fourth lane but everything is down to price these days.
“I have reservations about using the hard shoulder as an extra lane because you need it for when you break down but where the scheme is already operating on the M42, it seems to work smoothly.”
The Government is proposing to expand hard shoulder running because it is cheap compared with the cost of widening motorways and can be introduced much more quickly as relatively little work is required.
Widening the M1 between junctions 25 and 28 cost £340m and the extra lane on each carriageway took 18 months to build.
Road controllers would communicate with drivers through digital road signs. Lanes would be opened depending on traffic and if there were breakdowns or accidents.