National Highways continue smart motorway expansion despite increased congestion

Data suggests that smart motorways can actually increase congestion, and even accidents, but the network continues to expand.

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National Highways is making the stretch of the M1 between junctions 13 and 16 ‘smart’, despite concerns over increased congestion. 

The stretch of the M1 between Milton Keynes and Luton - between junctions 10 and 13 - was upgraded to be a ‘smart motorway’ in 2012 at the cost of £489 million. 

Last September, it was reported that, contrary to the intention of smart motorways to decrease congestion and improve safety, “not only has congestion increased on the stretch but the number of serious injury accidents has also risen,” according to Milton Keynes Citizen. 

The smart motorway was also anticipated to improve the local economy, but in reality the cost of the system is projected to be £200 million over 60 years. 

Now, despite the underperformance of the J10-13 smart motorway, to convert the stretch of the M1 between Milton Keynes and Northampton (junction 13 to junction 16) to a smart motorway.

In the original leaflet discussing the background of the J13-16 project, the ‘upgrade’ was expected to be completed by 2021. Now, the estimated completion date is between this year and next, with the cost of the project being £373 million.

“We are improving the busy 37.9 km (23.6 miles) stretch of the M1 between Junction 13, just south of Milton Keynes and Junction 16 near Northampton by upgrading it to an ‘all lane running’ (ALR) smart motorway,” says the leaflet. “Advance works are scheduled to begin in January 2018 with work on the main scheme starting in spring 2018. It will be open early in 2021.”

The purpose of making this stretch ‘smart’ is to “help ease congestion and make journey times more reliable during busy periods on this stretch of motorway,” according to a National Highways

However, considering the data relating to the junction 10 to junction 13 smart motorway, it is hard to be too optimistic about this extension.

Oh, and, remember, the man overseeing a lot of this, recently - Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary - is running for Prime Minister. 

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