Ministers plan SEVEN new smart motorways despite concerns over safety

Ministers plan SEVEN new smart motorways despite concerns over their safety – with tunnel under Stonehenge also given go-ahead in £27bn road improvement plan

  • M6, M62, M56, the M40 and M42 interchange, and the A1(M) are set for upgrade 
  • Another part of the M25 and the M3 also set to be upgraded to smart motorways 
  • Highways England is also set to renew commitment to tunnel under Stonehenge 
  • Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to also announce team to speed up upgrades 

England is to get at least seven new smart motorways as part of a £27billilon package of improvements to the country’s roads, according to reports today.

Highways England is to set out its five year plan of major road improvements later today, according to The Times.

The plans, which were partly released back in March, now include smart motorway upgrades to the M6, M62, M56, the M40 and M42 interchange, the A1(M), the M3 and part of the M25, reports the paper.

Highways England is also set to renew its commitment to build a tunnel under Stonehenge, in order to combat the nearby bottleneck on the A303.

The proposals for the £1.6billion project were part of the plans released in March and are currently under review by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

England is to get at least seven new smart motorways as part of a £27billilon package of improvements to the country’s roads, according to reports today

The plans, which were partly released back in March, now include smart motorway upgrades to the M6, M62, M56, the M40 and M42 interchange, the A1(M), part of the M25 and the M3, reports the paper

The UK’s biggest road tunnel under the Thames east of Dartford will also be included, as the road chiefs look to cut congestion on the M25.

According to the Times, Mr Shapps will today also announce a specialist unit to help speed up transport projects following major delays, including to the highspeed train service HS2, CrossRail between east and west London and a number of road and motorway schemes.

According to the Times, Mr Shapps will today also announce a specialist unit to help speed up transport projects

The unit will be led by Darren Shirley, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport.

It has also been confirmed today that the much-talked-about tunnel at Stonehenge will be one of the major projects in the £27billion masterplan – the biggest road expansion fund since the 1970s.

For decades, motorists on the A303, which passes the stone circle, have endured severe congestion on the popular route to and from the South West.

Opponents have argued that plans for a 1.8mile (2.9km) tunnel to ease gridlock around the World Heritage Site could ruin the prehistoric archaeological surroundings.

But the £1.6billion project was finally approved earlier this year after years of controversy.

Under plans unveiled in 2017, the tunnel will run as a dual carriageway and will be a further 164ft away from Stonehenge compared to the existing A303 route.

A tunnel could be built under Stonehenge after plans were given the green light as part of a £27billion masterplan to improve the nation’s roads

For decades, motorists on the A303, which passes the stone circle, have endured severe congestion on the popular route to and from the South West. Opponents have argued that plans for a 1.8mile (2.9km) tunnel to ease gridlock around the World Heritage Site could ruin the prehistoric archaeological surroundings

The project was designed to slash travel times on the A303 in Wiltshire which is often at a standstill on bank holidays. The scheme is one of dozens intended to ‘level up’ the regions by improving road links. They have been unveiled as part of a Road Investment Strategy for the next five years 

When the project was revealed in 2002, the tunnel was due to cost £183 million. Officials have promised the project will avoid important archaeological sites and will not spoil the view of the setting sun from Stonehenge during the winter solstice

Officials have promised the project will avoid important archaeological sites and will not spoil the view of the setting sun from Stonehenge during the winter solstice.

The scheme is one of dozens intended to ‘level up’ the regions by improving road links as part of the Road Investment Strategy, which is planned to take place over the next five years.  

The £27billion road fund will also pay for work on more than 20 connections to ports and airports, more than 100 junctions and 4,000 miles (6,437km) of road.

Strategy papers published in March made little reference to smart motorways, the controversial roads which are being reviewed amid serious safety concerns.

But the plans set to be released by Highways England today will feature are least seven of the motorways, which feature the hard shoulder as a running lane.

Strategy papers published in March made little reference to smart motorways, the controversial roads which are being reviewed amid serious safety concerns

But the plans set to be released by Highways England today will feature are least seven of the motorways, which feature the hard shoulder as a running lane

Instead of the hard shoulder, intermittent signs above each lane will warn drivers if there is an obstruction in the road.

However the smart motorways have proven controversial, with some groups raising safety concerns – though Highways England says per­sonal injury acci­dents have been reduced by more than half, according to statistics from data gathered since the first smart motorway opened in 2006.

Meanwhile, Highways England’s roads improvement plan faces a High Court challenge by environmentalists who do say it is not in keeping with the Government’s commitment to cleaner air.

If plans for the new smart motorways are completed, there will be 60 stretches of smart motorways in England.

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