£24million-a-mile A1(M) smart motorway scheme for Stevenage and Welwyn gets 2020 go-ahead
- Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO
Plans for a smart motorway section of the A1(M) are confirmed to begin in March 2020, raising hopes of easing traffic woes for Stevenage, Welwyn and beyond.
The scheme aims to widen the road between Junctions 6 and 8, which run through Welwyn, Knebworth and Stevenage.
The often-gridlocked road has long prompted concerns for access to the Lister Hospital and has caused congestion in nearby Welwyn, as well as slowing the approach south to WGC.
Welwyn Hatfield’s MP Grant Shapps was updated on the project by Highways England and said: “I am delighted that this lengthy campaign has succeeded in getting these much-needed upgrades.”
At a cost of £170million, the seven-mile stretch will come in at about £24million per mile and is expected to be completed by 2022.
With a smart motorway, the hard shoulder can be opened remotely for use as an extra lane, with laybys at regular intervals for vehicles in trouble.
This will bring the possible lanes up from two to three.
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Additional technology helps feed back and control the flow of traffic using an overhead gantry display announcing the opening and closing of lanes.
Congestion near the roundabout known as ‘the Clock’, at the northbound slip road of Junction 6, has been a long-held concern for Conservative county councillor for the Welwyn Division, Richard Smith.
He said: “Larger villages such as Welwyn are suffering excessive volumes of traffic at peak periods.”
But WGC haulier Peter Gates, whose lorries pound that stretch daily, was concerned.
“The trouble is, at the moment you’ve got the hard shoulder which cars can just pull in on if something goes wrong,” he said
“But with a smart motorway that can be in use as a lane.”
This, he said, could make congestion even worse if cars get in trouble.
Headteacher Mary Westley said some of her teachers at Welwyn St Mary’s C of E Primary School can look forward to halved journey times to work.
“We’ve got several colleagues coming from Stevenage and they’ll be delighted,” she said, adding that at present her southbound-travelling teachers sit in traffic for long periods. “They’ll have a bit more energy when they get in.”