Surge in motorway traffic revealed in official figures

Surge in motorway traffic revealed in official figures
Motorway capacity is being pushed to breaking point by a huge increase in the amount of traffic clogging up some of Britain’s major roads.

According to government statistics, there has been a 60% surge in the number of vehicles using the country’s motorways over the last two decades.

And the figures, reported in The Times, reveal vehicles have travelled around 67.4 billion miles on motorways over the last 12 months alone.

The dramatic rise has been attributed to factors such as the increase in HGVs and delivery vans spurred on by the growing popularity of internet shopping.

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More car drivers are also thought to have made a return to motorways such as the M25 and M1 following the completion of roadworks.

Some observers have suggested that the figures could support the case for all lane running motorways, on which the hard shoulder is turned into a permanent lane.

But concerns over such proposals have been raised by the RAC, which has said the new designs need a sufficient trial period before being rolled out.

Earlier this year, the Commons Transport Select Committee also cast doubt on the schemes by concluding they could be too risky for drivers.

This is because the lack of a hard shoulder can make it harder for emergency services to reach accident sites, while also preventing police from stopping suspicious vehicles.

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The schemes differ from current smart motorways, which use the hard shoulder only at peak times or to deal with congestion.

Some 45 miles of motorway have had hard shoulders turned into permanent lanes, seen as a cheap and less disruptive way of boosting capacity.

Plans are also in place to adapt a further 300 miles of motorway, with proposals made for 30 all lane running schemes.

But the report from the Transport Select Committee published in June said that these should be put on hold until the safety concerns can be resolved.

Commenting on this conclusion, RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: “Whilst supporting smart motorways as a cost-effective and relatively rapid way of increasing motorway capacity, the RAC has repeatedly expressed concerns about the latest design which turns the hard shoulder on motorways into a permanent running lane.

“The safety of motorists must come first and therefore new designs need to be trialed for sufficiently long to demonstrate their safety before they are introduced more widely.”

Copyright Press Association 2016. Motoring News articles do not reflect the RAC's views unless clearly stated.