Drivers on one of the busiest stretches of motorway in the country can now enjoy the benefits of a new congestion-busting upgrade which was fully opened to traffic yesterday.
A national speed limit of 70mph has been introduced on the M1, between junction 13 (Milton Keynes South) and Newport Pagnell services, following the opening of a fourth lane by National Highways to create extra capacity and tackle stop-start traffic delays.
This is the first phase of an upgrade of the motorway between junctions 13 and 16 (Upper Heyford Interchange) which will be opened later this year.
As part of the upgrade of the 23-mile stretch between junctions 13 and 16, 46 emergency areas are being installed to give motorists a place to pull off the road if they get into difficulty.
National Highways has announced that these include an additional eight emergency areas which will be installed before the full scheme opens. There are 11 emergency areas in the section which opened yesterday.
Paul Unwin, who is overseeing the scheme for National Highways, said: ‘We are making good progress on completing the upgrade of this stretch of motorway, which carries on average 125,000 vehicles a day. Following a comprehensive testing period, people can now to enjoy the full benefits of the additional lane which will mean more reliable journeys.
‘We want drivers to feel and be safe on our roads which is why we have taken on board drivers’ concerns about being able to find a safe place to stop in an emergency and will be installing eight additional emergency areas as part of the motorway upgrade before it fully opens later this year.
‘This is on top of the 38 originally planned, bringing the total to 46 emergency areas when the scheme is fully open. This is in addition to the new system of features including technology which means lanes can be closed, approaching traffic slowed down and warning messages displayed to drivers.’
As part of the upgrade, the motorway will open with Stopped Vehicle Detection technology that identifies stationary vehicles, typically in 20 seconds, and alerts the control room which can see the incident on camera and dispatch a traffic officer if necessary.
And improved CCTV coverage will help enable regional operations centre staff to manage incidents, advising emergency or recovery services more effectively.
The fourth lane opened late last year but speeds remained at 60mph while the new technology, including stopped vehicle detection, was tested. This has now been completed and the road can fully open with a 70mph speed limit.
National Highways is taking forward the Transport Committee’s recommendations. These include pausing the roll-out of new all lane running motorways, which are yet to start construction, until five years of safety and economic data is available for those sections introduced before 2020. This will allow an informed decision to be made on next steps.
Schemes already in construction, of which the M1 is one, are being completed, given they are all over 50% complete, and leaving traffic management in place for the duration of the pause would lead to significant disruption for road users.
In taking forward the Transport Committee’s recommendations, £390m has been allocated to design and build 150 additional emergency areas across the network with the M1 scheme to benefit from that commitment.
Meanwhile, National Highways launched a new ‘Driving on motorways’ hub on 25 January – it provides information about the main features of smart motorways, and advice and guidance on safer driving and what to do in an emergency: nationalhighways.co.uk/road-safety/driving-on-motorways
Further details on the M1 upgrade are available at: nationalhighways.co.uk/our-work/east/m1-junction-13-to-junction-16-smart-motorway