Sunday, 30 June 2013

Plans to "widen" M4 between Theale and Heathrow announced

On Thursday the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Lib-Dem Danny Alexander MP, announced approval for a project to make four lanes available both ways on the  M4 between Theale and Heathrow Airport.

However, the project will not involve actually widening the motorway. It will involve signage to control the use of the hard shoulder as a running lane at peak times. It will also involve the construction of emergency refuge areas with emergency telephones at intervals. The existing hard shoulder through junctions 5, 6 and 7 will be permanently converted to running lanes. The stretch of motorway involved will have variable speed limits enforced by camera. 

The estimated cost of the project is between £525 million and £720 million.

I am concerned about using the hard shoulder as a running lane. Currently, if there is an accident the emergency services can use the hard shoulder to get quickly to the scene of the accident. They won't be able to do this if the shoulder is being used as a running lane and the accident has caused a jam. Also, the fire brigade sometimes dispatch fire engines from Whitley, near Junction 11, to get to emergencies in and around Theale. They will not be able to do that if there is a jam on the M4 and the hard shoulder is being used as a running lane.

The Highways Agency description of the project is described here.

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