M1 hard shoulder plan safety concerns

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SAFETY concerns have been raised about plans to open the hard shoulder of the M1 near Sheffield as a fourth lane.

The Highways Agency is to begin work to allow ‘hard shoulder running’, which includes overhead gantries with speed and CCTV cameras, plus construction of lay-bys for broken down traffic, in April. The start date has been delayed from January.

But a meeting of South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority heard concern the plans could ‘increase the risk of serious collisions by 200 per cent’.

Under the scheme, traffic will be allowed to use the hard shoulder between junctions 32 to 35a near Sheffield at all times of day and night.

Hard shoulders used elsewhere, such as on the M42 in the West Midlands, are open to traffic at peak times only.

Ken Wheat, the manager of the South Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership, which represents the emergency services and other public bodies in the county, including councils, said: “At the moment the emergency services are at one about this.

“All have expressed concerns about how they are going to operate safely under this new regime.

“We have been in negotiation with the Highways Agency for several months and we have not yet found a solution that addresses the majority of those concerns and as a result the project does not have our full endorsement.”

In a report to the transport authority, transport officer Frances Adams, who has been involved in negotiations with the Highways Agency about the plans, revealed the 200 per cent increase collision risk.

Ms Adams said the risk applies to stationary vehicles only and said current talks are aimed at reducing the figure.

The Highways Agency has said constant monitoring of the motorway by CCTV cameras will allow lanes to be closed and sufficient warning to other motorists should incidents occur.