Anger over revised A1(M) plan after hard shoulder scheme scrapped

A1(M) plans have been criticised

A1(M) plans have been criticised - Credit: Archant

PLANS to alter the road layout on the A1(M) without using the hard shoulder as an extra lane have come under fire.

The Comet revealed last week that the Highways Agency will start a £2.2 miliion project in spring 2014 at junction 6 for Welwyn, in a bid to ease congestion heading northbound towards Stevenage.

Instead of using the hard shoulder as previously planned, the revised goverment-funded scheme will see one of the three lanes leave the main carriageway and used as a junction 6 exit slip road.

As a result, 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).

Following criticism from the council leaders of Stevenage Borough Council and North Hertfordshire District Council last week, North East Hertfordshire MP Oliver Heald has this week been in contact with the Highways Agency about his own concerns.

“I’ve always wanted a proper road widening, but the hard shoulder plan seemed like a good solution,” said Mr Heald.

“I don’t know if it’s to try to save money or an engineering method, but I’ve asked for an explanation. I won’t let it rest as it’s bad news for businesses in Letchworth and Baldock to have that narrow stretch. It affects the transportation of goods and services, but also the many people who commute up and down.”

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Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland said: “It is ridiculous that faceless bureaucrats can hide behind operational reasons and effectively hand the government millions of pounds back that I had secured for the original scheme. I am currently in discussions with ministers to make them aware of local feelings and impress upon them the need for the A1(M) to be widened.”

Ian Beattie, managing director of Stevenage haulage company Beattie Brothers Transport and Storage, said: “We have up to 20 trucks driving along there a day and they can sit there for an hour. This is not going to help the traffic flow at all and we’re all paying the price. I’m disappointed as nobody has sorted the issue out and I just think no one has the will to do it.”

Until last year Stevenage resident Malcolm Norwood had been using the stretch of road to commute since the late 1970s.

In a letter to the Highways Agency and a number of leading MPs, he said: “Please can you explain to me how this will reduce the congestion along the two lane section of the motorway from junction 6 to 8? I readily accept that in the current economic times we cannot undertake all the expensive road improvement projects we would wish for, but please don’t waste £2.2m actually making congestion worse.”

The Highways Agency has said that the change of plan comes following “detailed design” which “has shown that a better solution would be the lane diverge”.