A1(M) hard shoulder lane plan scrapped
- Credit: Archant
A PLANNED lane expansion of the A1(M) has been scrapped and replaced with a scheme described as a “backward step”.
Prime Minister David Cameron announced last October that a section of the hard shoulder would be opened to traffic at junction 6 heading northbound to Stevenage from 2014.
But the Highways Agency has revealed it will instead be undertaking a £2.2m government-funded project next year at Welwyn in a bid to ease traffic congestion – without using the hard shoulder.
The scheme will see the road layout altered so one of the three northbound lanes leaves the main carriageway and is used as a junction 6 exit slip road, known as a ‘lane drop’.
It will mean motorists continuing towards junction 7 and 8 for Stevenage will use two lanes from that point, instead of the third lane filtering into the second further up the A1(M).
On Tuesday Stevenage Borough Council was made aware of the project, which is expected to start in spring 2014 and is due to be completed over a three-month period.
“We are very disappointed as the hard shoulder plan was what we all thought was going to happen but the Highways Agency has decided to do things a different way,” said borough council leader Sharon Taylor.
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“I don’t see what this will do to increase capacity and what I’m told it will do is increase the two-lane stretch. This will affect the whole community, not just Stevenage but the economies of north and east Hertfordshire and beyond. This constant congestion jams up our economy.
“We all agree this is a significant problem in Hertfordshire and it has got to be sorted out one way or another. This seems to be a backward step by the Highways Agency.”
Cllr Lynda Needham, leader of North Hertfordshire District Council, said: “We are disappointed that Hertfordshire motorists will be getting a raw deal on much-needed improvements to this vital stretch of motorway, as the Highways Agency’s improvement scheme does not seriously address fundamental road capacity issues.
“The only way to ease congestion and help our local economy by keeping traffic moving would be to increase the capacity of this section of the A1(M).”
A spokesman for the Highways Agency said: “Originally the scheme envisaged converting the hard shoulder into a running lane to ease congestion and add vital extra capacity to the northbound A1(M) at junction 6 in Welwyn to a point just north of Pottersheath overbridge. However, more detailed design undertaken since then has shown that a better solution would be the lane diverge.
“By adding a lane drop on the approach to the junction 6 exit, drivers will be encouraged to move into the correct lane at a much earlier point, improving traffic flow at the junction.”