Highways Agency to open up use of hard shoulders

In a potentially beneficial move for Road Hauliers and motorists in general, The Highways Agency (HA) has announced they will temporarily be opening up the hard shoulders of certain areas of motorways to road users.One of the areas involved is the stretch between junctions 19 and 20 on the M4 near Bristol.

The trial period runs from 5th November for three weeks during off peak hours and is designed as a test of the HA’s new motorway technology. The technology involves using overhead messages to display variable mandatory speed limits and to indicate when motorists may use the hard shoulder as an extra lane. The goal of the new technology is to improve traffic flow and ease congestion.

If the trial period is deemed successful, the Highways Agency hopes to open up the managed motorway scheme to a permanent peak-time fixture and potentially include it in other areas of congested motorway.

Adrian Hull, assistant project manager for the Highways Agency, said, “We urge road users to follow the overhead signs, and remind them that the hard shoulder can only be legally used by motorists as a running lane when a speed limit is displayed above it – otherwise it is for emergency purposes only.”

The Highways agency have recently lead a crackdown against drivers using the hard shoulder illegally in places without traffic calming measures. This follows the emergence of the figures that around 250 drivers a day were using the hard shoulder across the M6 in the West Midlands.

In a joint statement from the HA and the Central Motorway Police group, officers said, “This month the police have issued around 50 letters to repeat offenders, warning them of the risk they are putting themselves and others at by doing this. The overall aim is for road users to correctly use the hard shoulder, not to fine them. All they need to do is to drive safely and get smart by only driving on the hard shoulder when there is a speed limit over it. If there is a red X or nothing displayed above it, don’t drive on it – it is for genuine emergencies only.”

Police bosses say the aim is not to fine motorists, but warn motorists using the hard shoulder illegally could face prosecution.

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