The end of never-ending roadworks?

  • Government planning to limit roadworks on busiest routes
  • Highways England testing 10mph limit hike on M1 stretch
  • £15.2 billion plan to improve road network gets underway

Shorter and faster motorway roadworks are being investigated by Highways England, in an attempt to reduce delays on the busiest roads.

Transport Minister John Hayes has asked the Government department to look at reducing the length of roadworks to lessen their impact on drivers.

He said: 'Following my discussions with them, Highways England are working towards utilising shorter lengths and looking at whether they can safely increase speed limits through roadworks, which will improve the overall customer experience and minimise disruption.'

A pilot exercise is currently being undertaken on the M1 between J34-35a near Sheffield in South Yorkshire, where traffic is allowed to travel at 60mph as opposed to the usual 50mph.

Mr Hayes added: 'Safety is our absolute priority. Highways England are carrying out a trial of 60mph on the M1 to see if we can raise the speed limit in roadworks without putting people at risk.

'I will be looking carefully at the results of this trial before we look to roll this out more widely next year, if it is a success.'

In September 2015 we reported how Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin told Highways England to introduce tough new rules for contractors to prevent motorists getting stuck in lengthy queues on motorways.

He said roadworks on busy motorways should be limited to short bursts, lasting two miles, under Government plans to cut congestion and make life easier for drivers. The maximum will be five miles, and only in special circumstances.

It is understood ministers demanded changes amid particular concerns over works along the M1 and M3, and mounting fears of worse disruption in years to come, following the announcement in 2014 of a £15.2 billion plan to improve the road network.

A key part of that plan involves the resurfacing of more than three quarters of England’s motorways and major A-roads and 1,300 miles of new road built by 2020.

Highways England Senior Project Manager Andy Kirk said: 'We understand that drivers get frustrated when they drive for miles and can’t see a lot of obvious construction work going on, and we recognise that there are a lot of roadworks on the M1 at the moment. So rather than keep roadworks in place, we will work behind the scenes completing various technical tasks, until we’re ready to implement the smart motorway on this section.'
The Freight Transport Association (FTA) welcomed the news and believes it could reduce delays and cut costs for all road users. 

Malcolm Bingham, FTA’s Head of Road Network Management Policy said: 'We know that for the largest vehicles it costs £1 for every minute they’re stuck in traffic. Limiting roadworks to two-mile stretches could considerably reduce the time they’re delayed. Nose-to-tail shunts are more prevalent in queues of slow moving traffic too, so hopefully this will also cut the number of accidents in roadworks.'