Greater Manchester is set to be home to a new 'smart' motorway after plans were unveiled by the Highways Agency.

Officials at the authority are aiming to significantly cut congestion and improve journey times on certain sections of the busy M60 and M62 motorways. These highways are some of the most used stretches of road in the north-west connecting Manchester with satellite towns such as Oldham, Bury and Salford and stretching further to the likes of Liverpool, Leeds and Hull.

The smart motorway scheme is set to be the first of its kind used in the north-west and will be introduced on a 17-mile section of the road between junction eight of the M60 near Sale and junction 20 of the M62 near Rochdale. These areas can be congestion hotspots during the morning and evening rush hours and the Highways Agency wants to rectify this problem as best it can.

A scheme of this ilk works by using the latest technology to monitor traffic levels to then provide traffic information to road user and then use variable speed limits on overhead signs to help ease congestion. The hard shoulder will also be permanently utilised as a fifth lane to accommodate the extra traffic joining the motorway at various points.

Jacqui Allen, senior project manager at the Highways Agency, said: "Converting the hard shoulder to an extra lane on the section of the M62 between Junctions 18 and 20 will also provide much-needed additional capacity, increasing the number of lanes on each side of the motorway from three to four."

The smart motorway is expected to cost in the region of £190 million to £267 million but officials have noted that by alleviating congestion it will help to support economic growth. Traffic gridlocked not only is a hindrance on an individual's day-to-day life but it impacts on the economy to the tune of £2 billion every year.

Work is expected to begin in 2014/15 with a completion date earmarked for 2016/17.

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