What Sheffield drivers should know before driving on Greater Manchester's new 'smart motorway'

Greater Manchester's first smart motorway is finally fully open but what will it mean for Sheffield drivers?

Smart motorway
Smart motorway

The stretch of the M60 between J8 for Sale and J20 for the M62 at Rochdale is regularly used by commuters in Sheffield.

It was due to open in August last year but faced delays due to the complexity of the £208m project.

Sheffield drivers have got used to smart motorways after the M1 between J32 and 35A was upgraded in March last year.

CCTV cameras and electronic signs were installed as well as variable speed levels depending on traffic levels.

There is also now an extra lane on the motorway with the hard shoulder being used for traffic on the M62 between J18 and 20, just like on the M1.

But, what does a smart motorway mean for drivers in Sheffield?

What's changed

The biggest difference is that there is now an extra lane, with the hard shoulder being used for traffic.

There is also more technology in place to manage traffic, with electronic signs in place to close lanes or change speed limits when needed.

CCTV footage from the smart motorway will be monitored from control rooms, enabling staff to respond to any incidents

Why has this been done?

Highways England says the changes will reduce delays on the 18-mile stretch of motorway, which is used by more than 110,000 vehicles each day.

Is it safe to scrap the hard shoulder?

Highways England says yes, with emergency refuge areas provided every 1.5 miles and extra technology in place to monitor traffic and respond immediately to crashes.

What has the reaction been so far?

Highways England said the week of testing went flawlessly and they are confident drivers will soon notice the difference in terms of smoother, more reliable journeys.

But some drivers have questioned the idea of variable speed limits.

One blogger said the 50mph limit during the first week meant drivers joining the motorway from the M18 were 'slamming on the anchors' when they saw the first gantry signs, which he said was unsafe.

What do the signs mean?

Overhead sings will display when it is safe to use the hard should with a speed sign shown above the lane and a message indicating you can use it.

A red cross above a lane indicates it is closed due to an incident or because people are working in the road.

What to do if you break down?

Use an emergency refuge area, motorway service area or leave at the next junction, where possible.

If you have to stop in a live lane put on your hazard warning lights to alert other drivers and highways staff monitoring CCTV cameras.

If you are in the left and lane and it is safe to do so, ext via the left hand door and wait behind the barrier if possible.

If you cannot leave the vehicle because you feel it is unsafe to do so, remain inside with your seat belt on and dial 999.