UK Government

Highways Agency: UK first as £3 million scheme to maximise benefits of hard shoulder running opens to road users

Press Release   •   Dec 09, 2009 11:32 GMT

From today (9 December), drivers on the M42 near Solihull will be the first in the country to be able to drive along the motorway hard shoulder between junction slip roads - further increasing motorway capacity at busy times.

The measure - known as 'through-junction running' - means road users travelling south on the M42 managed motorways scheme will benefit from a continuous four lane section of motorway from J6 southbound (Birmingham Airport) to J4 (Monkspath).

Previously drivers were required to leave the hard shoulder when approaching Junction 5.

Transport Minister Chris Mole said:

"Hard shoulder running has already made journeys on the M42 near Birmingham safer and more reliable. To maximise these benefits and further increase capacity the Highways Agency is now making more of the hard shoulder available to traffic at busy times.

"Through-junction running is just one of the measures taken by the Highways Agency to increase capacity, reduce congestion and improve journey time reliability and safety on our motorways.

“Funded by the Government’s fiscal stimulus package, the £3m project on the M42 forms part of the Highways Agency’s work to kick-start the economy and help ‘Build Britain’s Future’.”

Derek Turner, Highways Agency Director of Network Operations said:

“With around 90 per cent of traffic remaining on the main carriageway at Junction 5 of the M42 southbound, road users will benefit from the additional capacity, further improving traffic flow on this motorway.

“This scheme should also offer even greater safety benefits because traffic will be able to stay in lane at the junction, rather then having to move over when the hard shoulder ends.

“This is an important step in the delivery of the Managed Motorway programme. The results of this first scheme will shape future hard shoulder running schemes on our network, where junctions have similar traffic flows and will benefit from an additional lane through the junction.”

In order to deliver this additional capacity, the Highways Agency has re-aligned the existing southbound hard shoulder through Junction 5 and installed a number of electronic message signs which will direct traffic and give information to road users.

New black and yellow electronic variable message signs, which are visible to road users travelling southbound at junction 5 will change their display based on whether the hard shoulder is open to traffic and which lanes can be used to exit from or stay on the motorway. Using variable message signs in this ‘dynamic’ way is a new concept which gives road users a clear indication of the road layout ahead and what they can expect when travelling through or joining the M42 southbound.

Notes to editors

For further information, to request an interview or for a graphic of the new black and yellow ‘dynamic’ variable messages signs please contact Nathan Wallis on 0121 421 8852. National media enquiries or enquiries out of hours should be made to the Highways Agency National Press Office on 0207 081 7443.

1. The Highways Agency is an executive agency of the Department for Transport. We manage, maintain and improve England’s motorways and major A roads on behalf of the Secretary of State.

2.  The work is being carried out on behalf of the Highways Agency using contractors from the Highways Agency Construction Management Framework – Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Cemex, Dew Construction and Roocroft, with Amey as supervisor.

3. See "Britain's Transport Infrastructure - Motorways and Major Trunk Roads: document published on 15 January 2009. It details the locations where the Highways Agency will be adding capacity to the motorway and major trunk road network, including through hard shoulder running from 2009-10 until 2015. Plans to introduce ‘through-junction running’ on the M42 was also confirmed in this document.

4. The M42 Junction 3A to Junction 7 Active Traffic Management scheme (referred to as Managed Motorways in subsequent schemes) near Birmingham has shown that hard shoulder running can provide the benefits of motorway widening at significantly lower costs and without the need to acquire additional land.

About Hard Shoulder Running on the M42:
* Hard shoulder running on the M42 near Birmingham is proving popular with road users, with 60% of drivers questioned in the West Midlands wanting to see the scheme implemented elsewhere.
* The benefits of hard shoulder running on the M42 includes journey time reliability was increased by 22 per cent and personal injury accidents decreased from an average of 5.1 per month to 1.8.
* It has also been good news for the environment, with emissions reduced by between 4% and 10% due to traffic flowing more smoothly.

5. Where hard shoulders are opened up as running lanes this only happens following the implementation of significant safety features. Emergency refuge areas are provided at regular intervals; the network is intensively monitored by HA Control centre staff and speeds are controlled to ensure safety.

6. Highways Agency fiscal stimulus funding:
Of the Department for Transport’s £700m fiscal stimulus funding, the Highways Agency will be delivering £400 million of this funding during 2009-10. The additional expenditure is designed to keep companies trading and people in work to build assets with a value in to the future – ‘Building Britain’s Future’.

The fiscal stimulus funding is not new money, but rather already planned spending which has been brought forward to help stimulate the economy.

The Agency’s fiscal stimulus funding allows:
- advance delivery of the A46 Newark to Widmerpool scheme: the A46 Newark to Widmerpool scheme has been accelerated by up to £100m, which has been brought forward to allow start of work this year, three years earlier than originally planned.
- With £300 million allocated for spend on managed motorway enabling work (e.g. the hard shoulder strengthening work being carried out on sections of the M6 between J5 and J16 near Birmingham), asset renewal work and technology spending.

7. Real-time traffic information for England’s motorways and major A roads is available:
- From our Traffic Radio service, available on DAB digital radio and the internet at To tune into the DAB service, simply press the "scan" button on your radio. The radio will tune into all available channels and you can select the new service by scrolling through the channels until you reach "Traffic Radio".
- From the web at or if using a phone or mobile device.
Before using a mobile, find a safe place to park. Never stop on the hard shoulder of a motorway except in an emergency. Make sure it’s safe and legal before you call.
- By phone from the Highways Agency 24-hour voice activated phone service on 08700 660 115.  (Calls from BT residential landlines to 0870 numbers will cost no more than 8p per minute; call charges from other landlines and mobile networks may vary).

8. For more general information about the Highways Agency and its work, visit the Highways Agency website, or telephone the Highways Agency Information Line on 08457 50 40 30 at any time (Calls to 0845 numbers will cost no more than 4p per minute from BT residential landlines. Call charges from other landlines and mobile networks may vary).


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Phone: For enquiries please contact the above department