Drivers on one of the busiest stretches of motorway in the country are being promised changes this week with a new lane becoming available for traffic and extra safety measures installed, National Highways has announced.
National Highways has started lifting traffic cones and barriers on the newly upgraded 15-mile stretch of the M27 between junctions 4 (M3 interchange) and 11 (Fareham) in Hampshire.
This will result in four lanes becoming available for traffic in each direction.
National Highways says due to the length of the upgrade, the removal of traffic management will take place over several nights, with all cones lifted by 6am on Friday 18 February. When all the traffic management is removed, the four lanes will remain at 60mph while the new technology, including stopped vehicle detection, is undergoing its final tests. Stopped vehicle detection uses radar technology to alert the control centre, typically within 20 seconds. The control centre then sets signs and signals which closes the lane, and sends assistance to help the stopped vehicle.
Temporary additional CCTV and a free recovery service will also remain in place alongside the new permanent systems during the commissioning period. Drivers will also be able to use any of the 13 new emergency areas if they need to stop in an emergency. Once the final tests have been completed on stopped vehicle detection, the speed limit will be raised to up to 70mph when junctions 4 to 11 are fully open.
National Highways smart motorways programme director David Bray said, “We are making good progress on completing the upgraded M27 Southampton and Fareham and we are grateful for people’s continued patience through our roadworks.
“From 12 February, we are starting to remove the temporary cones and barriers on this stretch of the motorway to open four lanes of traffic.
“While it may appear fully open, this stretch of motorway will continue to have a lower 60mph speed limit in place – which allows us to complete and test the technology, including the stopped vehicle detection system, before it goes live and the scheme is opened. Roadworks must be removed to allow full testing to be completed.
“In the meantime, drivers using the M27 can be reassured that the motorway already has multiple safety features in place while this testing is carried out. This includes 142 CCTV cameras; a dedicated free recovery service with a fleet of 10 vehicles, and the ability to use technology to vary the speed limit and to close lanes using a Red X.”
National Highways says while these tests are completed and until the scheme is open, extra patrols of traffic officers will be in place to help road users, and control room operators will be able to change the speed limit and display warning messages during incidents.
It comments that on 2 November 2021 the Transport Committee published the findings of its inquiry into the rollout and safety of smart motorways. The Government’s response was published on 12 January 2022. It says National Highways is taking forward the Transport Committee’s recommendations. These include pausing the roll-out of new all lane running motorways, which are yet to start construction, until five years of safety and economic data is available for those sections introduced before 2020. This will allow an informed decision to be made on next steps.
Schemes already in construction, of which the M27 is one, are being completed, given they are all over 50% complete, and leaving traffic management in place for the duration of the pause would lead to significant disruption for road users.
(Picture – National Highways)