Friday, April 11, 2014

Freight Group Says Learn New 'Smart Motorway' Rules Before Driving M25 Twenty Mile Section

Accidents and Prosecutions Will Result for Improper Use of 'Open' Hard Shoulder
Shipping News Feature

UK – A comment by the Freight Transport Association (FTA) on the new ‘Smart Motorway’ stretch of the busy M25, due to open on 14 April, is particularly relevant to companies like the Handy Shipping Guide, whose staff need to travel the route on a daily basis. The radical changes may soon become familiar to regular travellers but the FTA is concerned that motorists may not be aware of the how these changes will affect those driving it and this may be particularly relevant to those who use the route for the first time.

For some time work has been ongoing on two sections of the motorway between junctions 23 and 25 in Hertfordshire, and between junctions 5 and 6/7 on the Kent/Surrey border as part of the Highways Agency Programme which is said to help improve journeys and boost the UK economy. The new style 'Smart Motorway' will span some 20 miles of the M25 and leaves a permanent conversion of the hard shoulder for traffic to be used as a normal running lane to increase capacity on these busy stretches of road.

Final preparations are taking place to open the initial section of the M25 Smart Motorway between Junctions 23 (A1M/South Mimms exit) to 25 (Potters Bar) Monday 14 April, with the second stretch to be opened between junctions 5 (Sevenoaks/A21) to 7 (M23 exit) in May 2014. Malcolm Bingham, FTA’s Head of Road Network Management Policy explained the Associations concerns, saying:

“With the opening of the two stretches of the M25 Smart Motorway imminent, FTA is concerned that motorists need to fully understand how these stretches of road will work. The changes that have been made are quite significant, so drivers must become familiar with the types of new signs and signals they will see and what they should do in the event of a breakdown.

“Whilst any improvements to make journey times more reliable are always good news, FTA is saying that drivers need to make themselves aware of the changes to the road. The Highways Agency has produced an information leaflet on the new ‘Smart Motorway’ operation, and the Association is urging fleet operators and their drivers to look to the advice provided and ensure that they are as smart in the use or the road as the technology is on these new sections.”

The leaflet link above takes readers to the essential information they require to know what the various procedures for safe use of the stretch of road concerned are, and any thoughts that the hard shoulder is permanently available could lead to both accidents and/or prosecutions, so drivers are advised to take a look. John Martin, Highways Agency Senior Project Manager, explained the importance of reading up on the signs prior to driving the new stretch, saying:

“Around £1.7 billion is being invested into roads in the South East by 2021 with 145 new lane miles of capacity added. Most of the work to improve journeys on these stretches in Hertfordshire and Kent/Surrey is complete and we are now testing the new technology. Soon the smart motorway will be complete and we are now asking drivers to get smart and find out more about how to use it, the types of signs and signals they will see and what to do in the event of a breakdown.”