A new M4 smart motorway scheme has been granted approval by the Department for Transport (DfT).
A 32-mile stretch of the road, between junctions 3 (Hayes) and 12 (Theale), is set to be widened from three to four lanes, while variable speed limits will be put in place in a bid to better control traffic flow. It is hoped these changes will allow for “proactive management” of the motorway.
The extra lane will be created by converting the hard shoulder, while overbridge structures will be replaced and underbridge structures extended.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling said the scheme will help to meet the “critical need” for improvement across the UK’s national road structure.
He stated that the project will “increase capacity, improve traffic flow and reduce journey times, thereby supporting economic development”.
The changes have been criticised by environmental campaigners, who believe it will lead to increased traffic and pollution.
Jenny Bates of Friends of the Earth stated: “Motorway widening is not the solution to our congested roads as more traffic just makes it worse – it’s time to send UK transport in a new direction to protect our planet and our health.”
A recent report from the University of the West of England Bristol claimed that transport planners in the UK have been failing to prioritise action against air pollution, despite the fact it leads to between 15 and 30 times more deaths than traffic accidents.
In 2014, a total of 64.3 billion vehicle miles were recorded on the UK’s motorways, representing an increase of more than 46 per cent compared to 20 years earlier.
With the population continuing to grow, developing new, smarter, approaches to transport planning will be key to making the country’s road network safer and more efficient.
Image from iStock/TomasSereda