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Drivers could be allowed to drive faster through motorway roadworks amid speed limit frustration

Birmingham Mail logo Birmingham Mail 16/07/2018 James Rodger
© Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited

Drivers could be allowed to travel at increased speed through motorway roadworks depending on what day of the week they are travelling, under new plans from Highways England.

The agency is considering raising the speed limit from 50mph to 60mph on days when there is less activity by road workers, and where they are at a safe ­distance from traffic.

Each week there are nearly 300 incidents where drivers enter coned-off areas or subject road workers to abuse.

Chief executive Jim O’Sullivan said: “People understand roadworks are necessary but are frustrated by them. At the same time we have to ensure they, and our road workers, are safe.

“That is why over the next 12 months we will test changes.”

Motorway traffic: Speed limits could be increased from 50mph to 60mph when there is less activity by road workers, Highways England announced (Barry Batchelor/PA) © Provided by The Press Association Speed limits could be increased from 50mph to 60mph when there is less activity by road workers, Highways England announced (Barry Batchelor/PA)

Following earlier trials to increase the speed limit through roadworks from 50mph to 55mph or even 60mph, the Government-owned company is going to test if varying speed limits could safely be operated within a set of roadworks without increasing the risks to either drivers or road workers.

For example the speed could be increased to 60mph on a Sunday if there is less activity taking place, and then brought back down to 50mph when road workers are working within a few feet of passing traffic.

It is also exploring if different speed limits could operate within one set of roadworks.

This could mean people commute to work on one carriageway at 50mph as they are nearer the workforce, but drive home on the other carriageway at 60mph as the road workers are further away.

Evening rush hours during roadworks Traffic on the M60 motorway, Manchester, UK. © Getty Evening rush hours during roadworks Traffic on the M60 motorway, Manchester, UK.

During roadworks narrow lanes are installed to provide a safe working area for the workforce. Doing this means as many lanes as possible can remain open to traffic.

Currently Highways England operates a 50mph (or lower) limit in narrow lanes but this year they will test whether it is safe to operate at 60mph in certain circumstances.

This might include consideration of the width of the narrow lanes or the type of temporary safety barriers that are used.

Locations for the trials are yet to be agreed. Once underway Highways England will monitor the speed of vehicles, flow of traffic, look at incident data and gather customer feedback to determine its success.

The trials are outlined in the company’s Delivery Plan Update for 2018/19, published today.

The Plan sets out how the company is continuing to deliver the Government’s £15bn road investment programme (2015 to 2020).

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