Hard shoulder may solve M5 hold-ups

PUBLISHED: 05:36 14 September 2006 | UPDATED: 09:52 24 May 2010

LONG delays on roads in North Somerset could be cut with plans for motorists to drive on stretches of the hard shoulder of the M5. The scheme is being trialled on stretches of the motorway near Birmingham and could be started on the motorway between Cleve

LONG delays on roads in North Somerset could be cut with plans for motorists to drive on stretches of the hard shoulder of the M5.The scheme is being trialled on stretches of the motorway near Birmingham and could be started on the motorway between Clevedon and Burnham within two years.Experts say the M5 is a priority route for tourists and the proposals will be cheaper and quicker than widening the roads and creating another lane. North Somerset councillor Mike Bell said he would welcome the scheme on the motorway.He said: "Anything that helps relieve congestion on the motorway is a good thing."I hope there would be a free breakdown recovery service like they have when there's roadworks otherwise there could be problems. However, I do think we have to come up with other solutions for transport as well as road widening."Drivers who break down on the motorway will be able to pull into new laybys, known as emergency refuges, which have been built at 500-metre intervals. Access to the hard shoulder will be controlled via a series of gantries across the motorway. Sensors under the road surface will detect when congestion is building up and send a message to the Highway Agency's control centre.Digital screens on the gantries will inform drivers that they can use the hard shoulder. The gantries will display a red cross over the hard shoulder when it is closed and a round speed limit sign when it is open. The limit for all lanes will be reduced to a maximum of 50mph when the hard shoulder is in use. The control centre will use a network of CCTV cameras to spot when a vehicle breaks down and cannot reach a refuge. The Highways Agency said signs on the gantries would be changed in seconds, telling drivers to leave the hard shoulder and warning of a hazard ahead.A Highways Agency spokesman said: "Everything is still at an early stage with this project. Nothing has been decided yet and we're looking to see how the trial goes. A climber lane has been added to the M5 north of Clevedon already. If the trial is successful then the M5 would have one of the most likely causes to adopt the extra lane scheme.

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