Call to scrap plans for A1(M) smart motorway between Stevenage and Welwyn

Councillor Sharon Taylor, leader of Stevenage Borough Council, is calling for plans for the A1(M) to

Councillor Sharon Taylor, leader of Stevenage Borough Council, is calling for plans for the A1(M) to be turned into a smart motorway to be scrapped. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Plans to turn a stretch of the A1(M) into a smart motorway should be scrapped, a council leader has said.

Smart motorways have technology that enables the hard shoulder to be opened up as an additional lane for motorists, depending on the flow of traffic.

Highways England plans to turn the A1(M) between junctions 6 and 8 - Welwyn to Stevenage - in both directions into a smart motorway, increasing capacity from two lanes to three when using the hard shoulder.

Construction work is set to start in March 2020, with completion projected to be before spring 2022.

But when Stevenage Borough Council member Adam Mitchell asked councillors last week to back a motion welcoming the plans, members including council leader Sharon Taylor refused.

Councillor John Gardner, executive member for environment and regeneration, said it is a "second class alternative" to having a three-lane motorway.

Cllr Taylor said the council has been clear that Stevenage needs 'proper' three-lane widening to ease traffic congestion.

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She said a smart motorway solution would do Stevenage no favours at all.

"We should demand the government scraps this plan and gives us proper funding for a three-lane motorway, " said Cllr Taylor.

"I want the best solution for Stevenage - it's not this."

Cllr Mitchell said a smart motorway would go some way towards reaching council goals of reducing carbon and achieving 'sustainable town status', while improving safety through modern technology and data.

He said: "It isn't the ideal solution - it's the solution we have. I think we would be silly to not to take it at this time."

Cllr Phil Bibby - who is also the county council's executive member for highways and environment - said if they were to hold out for full widening they would not get it.

He said smart motorways had proved to be a cost-effective and efficient alternative.

Cllr Stephen Booth agreed the smart motorway plan was a "second-best solution" but said his Liberal Democrat group would support the motion.

Conservative councillors also supported the motion, but without the support of Labour councillors the motion was lost.