Highways England heralds roads revolution

The government is changing the way England’s motorways and A-roads are built and managed with an ambitious package of reforms that is expected to save the taxpayer at least £2.6 billion over the next 10 years.
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Highways England, a new ‘at arm’s length’ government agency, will take over the running of motorways and major trunk roads from the Highways Agency in April.

Expressway to heaven?

Up to £15 billion will be invested over the coming years in a programme of works that includes upgrading busy A-roads to ‘expressways’ by removing roundabouts and traffic lights. These will be replaced with entry and exit slip roads, and refuge areas will be provided for breakdowns and emergencies. CCTV monitoring will be employed to identify problems and manage traffic flow. Slow traffic, such as tractors, will be banned from selected routes. Cyclists may also be barred from high-speed routes.

Smart moves

More motorways will also be actively managed, with variable speed limits and traffic allowed to use the hard shoulder as a fourth lane during busy periods – the so-called ‘smart’ strategy. There are also plans to provide wi-fi connections via roadside signal masts so that drivers could be provided with information, via SatNav devices, relating to congestion, weather conditions and fuel prices. Testing is also expected to take place on whether electric cars can be charged while in motion through charging loops embedded in the road surface.

Jam today, jam tomorrow?

New routes are also being considered as a way to relieve congestion in notoriously busy areas, such as the route from Devon to Cornwall and the trunk roads north of Newcastle and across northern England. The government is already committed to spending £2 billion on a ‘strategic corridor’ to the southwest via the A303, including a 1.8 mile tunnel at Stonehenge in Wiltshire. Other measures include nine major improvements along the A1 from Berwick to London, taking it to motorway standard through Yorkshire and extending the continuous dual carriageway 24 miles further north.

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