Hard shoulders scrapped on some motorways

18 Jun, 2013 4:01pm Chris Ebbs

A new All Lanes Running scheme is to be introduced to help ease congestion on the UK's major motorways

A new scheme that replaces the hard shoulder for a fourth lane is set to be rolled out across stretches of the UK’s major motorways in an attempt to cut congestion.

Dubbed All Lanes Running, the system will mean that parts of the M25, M6, M4, M3, M62, M60 and M1 will become four lanes. Drivers will only be informed when not to use the inside lane – once the hard shoulder. It will also warn drivers of queues ahead and set variable speed limits.

This is an advance on the systems currently used on some stretches of the M42 and M1, which use signs to tell drivers that they can use the hard shoulder at peak traffic times.

The first stretch of the new motorway system will be in operation on the M25, between junctions five and seven, by Emergency Refuge Areas will be created up to 2.5km apart.

The Highways Agency claims that the new scheme will allow them to create a more controlled environment on the motorway.

Andrew Page-Dove, asset development manager for the Highways Agency, said: “All Lanes Running should see a 15 per cent improvement on all round safety risks.”

Page-Dove explained that there are currently around five stops per day, per motorway mile in the hard shoulder or in a lane. But with the new scheme this would fall to one breakdown in a live lane.

The Highways Agency also claimed that around 50 per cent of hard shoulder stops are illegal with drivers using it to have a toilet break or make a phone call, while 25 to 35 per cent of cars could continue to an emergency refuge area.

Do you think ditching the hard shoulder is a good idea? Will it make roads less safe? Or is cutting traffic more important? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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Honestly, I'd prefer to be stuck in traffic occasionally with a hard shoulder in place rather than risk being killed by having no other option than to remain in a live lane in the event of a breakdown.

It's a good idea in theory but they clearly haven't really explored the 'what if' scenarios...

That is my immediate reaction but the experience of elsewhere (eg. M42) has been nowhere near as catastrophic as you might expect. Even so, I'd prefer refuges to be closer than 2.5 km apart. A mile and a half is a long way to coax a vehicle that is in the process of breaking down even if it is a rarer occurrence than when I first started driving.

I think it is a very bad idea. I have only ever had to use a hard shoulder three times. Once when a head gasket blew, another time when an automatic gearbox suddenly failed due to rubbish in the road hitting the sump and loosing the oil, and lastly from a sudden puncture.

In all cases I needed to stop within seconds, not nurse a car for a mile to the next refuge, which would not be possible. Modern cars are generally very reliable, but when they do have trouble they tend to have major problems which usually do not allow them to be nursed along the road.

I'd rather see motorways enlarged or added to rather than this rather risky stop-gap. Yes, it's expensive but with more and more cars on the road (and contributing through road tax) we need real extra capacity to keep the economy and traffic flowing

Well they can start this on the M8 Glasgow - Edinburgh road ASAP

How are the emergency services supposed to get to the scene of an accident when there are miles of traffic queues blocking the hard shoulder?

Nice idea apart from the fact they put Gatsos above most of the gantries. So you are often forced to trundle along at 60 for no reason because they've set the limit too low because of a bit of congestion that cleared ages ago.

Absolutely agree with CarGeek. I was of the opinion that the hard shoulder actually served a purpose.

How will it be replaced? Will stranded motorists be expected to push their car for a couple of miles to the closest 'safe' place to wait for help?

Has anyone actually thought of the knock-on effects of having a broken-down car in a live lane, disrupting traffic flow at peak times? What of the added risk to all other motorists as well?

I'm no expert on this, but I understand that the M42 scheme is in a relatively rural area, whereas the new ones on the M62 and M1 are in very busy areas with many junctions and intersections, so this might make a difference. Also, it seems the highways agency is not planning any publicity/releases on how these new stretches will work, so drivers will be going into this not knowing exactly how to go on.