Roads Roads experts defend M1 South Yorkshire plans

Driving seat: How four lanes look.
Driving seat: How four lanes look.
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HIGHWAYS Agency officials have defended plans to spend hundreds of millions of pounds converting the hard shoulder into a fourth lane on two sections of the M1 near Sheffield.

Sheffield Heeley MP Meg Munn has branded the schemes, proposed for between junctions 28 and 31, and between 32 and 35a, dangerous.

Speaking in a Parliamentary debate, the Labour politician said she was unhappy the hard shoulder could be used as a lane 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

She also raised concerns about signs being placed at the side of the motorway, rather than over the hardshoulder.

Hard shoulders have been opened elsewhere in the country but only at rush hour.

Overhead gantries have been used to display signs showing which lanes are open and whether there is a reduced speed limit.

The agency said some overhead gantries would be installed on the M1 near Sheffield.

A Highways Agency spokeswoman said: “It is not correct to say the new managed motorway design will reduce safety.

“We design and operate the network in a safe way. In developing the new design, we called upon all our operational and design experience of managed motorways over the last six years and have undertaken considerable research to provide a fully evidenced approach to the decisions we have taken.

“Based on a risk assessment, the overall safety of this stretch of the M1 near Sheffield is predicted to be better than it is today. Once completed, road users will also experience less congestion and have more reliable journey times.”

“We continue to work with South Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership to agree on an approach to operating this section of managed motorway on the M1.”

The Highways Agency said a total of 13 overhead gantries, spanning the motorway and displaying signs, would be installed.

In addition, 27 large electronic matrix signs will be mounted in the verges and will display information for road users, including the speed limit and which lanes are available.

Eight refuge areas will be created for those breaking down.