The new section, between junction 23 and 25 opened on Monday and is the first British motorway to forego the hard shoulder in favour of additional traffic capacity. The Highways Agency believe the changes, which began in February 2013 and have an estimated budget of £188 million, will reduce congestion thanks to the road’s increased capacity.
A considerable amount of work has gone into the upgrade, including:
- repaired the existing drainage
- widened the carriageway in to the centre
- installed a new, stronger concrete barrier
- strengthened a number of bridges
- repaired bridge decks
- installed new lighting through junctions
- installed portal and cantilever gantries
- installed new technology systems with speed enforcement and driver information signs
- installed new CCTV cameras and emergency telephones
- installed permanent traffic management signs
- constructed emergency laybys
- resurfaced parts of the carriageway
Alongside the new fourth lane, new monitoring cameras have been installed, allowing teams from the Highways Agency to be kept better informed on the level of traffic and congestion on the road.
A second section will open later in 2014 with similar schemes planned for the M1, M3 and M62.