The very end of July 2018 saw a landmark moment for the North West: the launching of the first smart motorway in the region. Work has been underway on this high profile project for several years but the completion was delayed by unexpected complexities.

However, on July 31st the final section of the Greater Manchester smart motorway was declared operational, meaning that work was finally complete.

What is a ‘Smart’ Motorway?

In a nutshell, a smart motorway refers to a section of motorway that uses technology to manage traffic.

This means the installation of CCTV cameras and electric signs, which are used to enforce variable speed limits. The hard shoulder will often be used as a running lane at busy times. If variable speed limits are not in place, the national speed limit applies as usual.

Where is it?

The new smart motorway is between Junction 8 on the M60 and Junction 20 in the M62. This road connects Greater Manchester with Yorkshire and the Humber and is a significant part of the east to west transport corridor.

Along with extra tech, an extra running lane has been added in each direction along the M62 (Junctions 18 to 20).

The Impact on Haulage Work

Any changes to significant roads such as the M60 inevitably have an impact on courier work. The hope is that smart motorway technology, such as variable speed limits, will ease congestion, helping traffic maintain a steady rate in busy times and reducing stop-starting.

This will increase road safety, decrease fuel consumption and provide more reliable journey times along the route. The use of the hard shoulder as a running lane does decrease the options for drivers experiencing a breakdown, so look out for Emergency Refuge Areas, more and more of which are being painted orange.

What is Next?

For the M60, next comes a comprehensive programme of resurfacing, which will begin sometime in August. Those engaged in overnight courier work will want to keep up to date with the resurfacing works as they will take place at night.

There are plenty of other projects in the pipeline to improve roads across the country, with over 500 million in the pot. Highways England is promising that 90 miles of extra lanes will be added to the motorway network across four additional smart motorway projects to take place in the coming years.

Schemes including the M62 (Junctions 20 to 25), the M6 (Junctions 21a to 26), the M56 (Junctions 6 to 8) and the M62 (Junctions 10 to 12) are planned, with the latter to begin soon.

Whilst you’re about and about in the North West, look out for the improvements on the road and keep an eye on those variable speed limits, as fines will be enforced.

Highways England has provided guidance on how to use the new system, so take a look before your next journey.

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