Hard shoulder option for A1(M) motorway?

PUBLISHED: 18:18 17 June 2008 | UPDATED: 22:05 26 October 2009

Grant Shapps, Conservative Shadow Minister for Housing and MP for Welwyn and Hatfield

Grant Shapps, Conservative Shadow Minister for Housing and MP for Welwyn and Hatfield

PA Archive/PA Photos

THE Department for Transport has pledged to investigate a new traffic scheme for the A1(M) - which could open up the hard shoulder for use by vehicles. The promise of a new 'rough and ready' study by the Highways Agency was made by Transport Minister Tom

THE Department for Transport has pledged to investigate a new traffic scheme for the A1(M) - which could open up the hard shoulder for use by vehicles.

The promise of a new "rough and ready" study by the Highways Agency was made by Transport Minister Tom Harris.

He had a private meeting with Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps, and borough councillors Malcolm Cowan and Helen Bromley, to discuss issues relating to the busy motorway.

Mr Harris said the stretch of motorway north of Welwyn could be considered for inclusion in what is called Active Traffic Management (ATM).

The scheme, currently in operation on the M42 near Birmingham, makes use of automatic systems and human intervention to manage traffic flow and reduce congestion by switching on and off lanes including the hard shoulder.

Mr Shapps told the WHT that the A1(M) had not previously been a priority for such a scheme - but this was before the announcements regarding the QE2 Hospital downgrading and the building of 10,000 homes in the area.

He said: "Since the announced closure of the QE2, everyone has been concerned about the difficulties in travelling to the Lister hospital in Stevenage, particularly during the rush hours.

"I explained to the minister how concerned I was about the QE2 closure, combined with tens of thousands of new homes both in Welwyn Hatfield and Stevenage, all putting additional pressure on the motorway.

"He agreed that the situation had changed and ordered an immediate review of whether the stretch of motorway could be included in an ATM programme, which includes the ability to switch use of the hard shoulder on and off."

* The A1(M) being a 'noisy neighbour' could yet be a thing of the past, after Mr Harris agreed to look again at the issue.

The minister said he would revisit what campaigners believe was a flawed noise survey previously undertaken by his department in order to see if further mitigation steps, such as fencing, would be appropriate.

Mr Shapps, who has campaigned for years for a quieter motorway through the constituency, said: "After years of battling over A1(M) noise I also welcome the prospect of a new investigation into whether further steps could be taken to lessen the impact of motorway noise through Welwyn Hatfield."

* Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Helen Bromley said: "The meeting was positive and several ideas were discussed and taken on board by the minister, who did seem to appreciate the problems facing the residents of Welwyn Hatfield."

Lib Dem councillor Malcolm Cowan added: "It was great to find that the minister was sympathetic to the noise problems of the motorway and is prepared to consider measures to reduce the noise, beyond the long-delayed resurfacing.

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