The UK has some of the busiest highways in Europe seeing millions of drivers take to the roads up and down the country every day.
While the motorways are increasingly convenient and offer people a quick route to areas all over the nation, there are plans afoot to increase the capacity of these roads to accommodate yet-more traffic. A scheme by the Department for Transport (DfT) has revealed that a number of motorways across the UK will be widened in a bid to allow extra drivers on to the roads and also make logistics from ports to the rest of the country easier. However, while it is a good sign for motorists as more cars are accommodated, what could it mean for the construction sector and for the people living in these areas?
Officials at the DfT have announced that they are keen to get the schemes underway and have a number of sites that will be widened. There also plans in place to speed up the construction process to ensure that the motorways are completed in half the original time. The government department has earmarked three schemes which will add 72 miles to the nation's road network and officials leading the operation are looking to have them all completed by 2015. It is seen as a way of reducing traffic congestion but also improving links between ports and other parts of the UK.
The DfT stated that that the M3 junction two to 4a in Surrey, M6 junction 10a to 13 in the West Midlands and M1 junction 28 to 31 in Derbyshire have all been named for increased capacity. Officials have said that one kilometre of managed motorway could be built every two weeks instead of the previously predicted four. The capacity can be markedly increased as these types of highways use the hard shoulder as an extra lane therefore being able to accommodate more cars.
Patrick McLoughlin, transport secretary said: "I am determined to cut the time it takes to upgrade our roads in half by dismantling procedures that have slowed us down. Together these schemes will increase capacity for millions of road users by 72 miles. My ambition is that in future all major road schemes will be accelerated, tackling congestion more quickly and boosting the economy."
The Surrey project is due to be completed in 2015 ahead of the previous 2016 deadline with construction beginning in 2013/14. This specific works is designed to improve links between London Heathrow and Solent Ports and due to the high number of motorists heading to and from these facilities the move has been imperative. The airport is the busiest in the UK and easier transport routes will allow passengers reach their destination much easier, hopefully avoiding the threat of traffic jams. Other projects in the West Midlands and Derbyshire are also expected to be completed by the 2015/16 deadline easing access around these areas and there also plans afoot in Immingham. The Lincolnshire town is a key area for the UK's port operations with a number of cruise liners and ferries operating from the dock. The A160 and A180 are due to be combined to help create a dual carriageway which will allow for more car owners along with freight services come to and from the facility.
However, while the DfT is keen to speed up the process in which the motorways are widened to allow for the extra vehicles there is the question raised of what impact does it have on the people living around the affected area. Noise pollution is one factor of a motorway scheme that always seems to raise its head when these type of project occur, naturally the more cars on the road the more noise is going to be produced.
In November 2011, a group of residents in Oxfordshire, living close to the M40 called for action to be taken to reduce or at least control the amount of noise created by passing cars using the motorway. The Safer and Quieter M40 Group was set up as residents living in Lewknor and Wheately claimed that they could not talk to each other in their back gardens due to the fact that the traffic noise was overpowering enough to drown out anything they said.
At the time, the Highways Agency issued a statement, published by the BBC, which read: "We have a standing policy that whenever a road surface has worn out, it will be replaced with a low noise surface. Since 2008 we have been working closely with Defra to map noise levels along virtually our entire network, and to develop action plans for the worst affected areas across the country - as several sections along the M40 are."
The DfT's plan of extending certain parts of the motorway network will be regarded as a major step forward in terms of increasing traffic capacity, the other aspects such as noise pollution are major factors that need to be taken into consideration.
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