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M6 is latest "smart" motorway to go live

The move will see the hard shoulder opened to traffic during the busiest times between junctions 5 and 8 just in time for this weekend's Easter bank holiday getaway.

Highways Agency, project manager Rob Edwards said: ‘Drivers will reap the benefit of the government investing more than £111m on this stretch of the M6, with improved journeys and a boost for the economy.

‘The move to smart motorways began in the Midlands on the M42 in 2006. This scheme brings the latest technology to the M6, despite the difficult engineering challenges we faced with the motorway being elevated.

‘More than 160,000 road users stand to benefit each day, now we can open the hard shoulder during the busiest times.’

The improvements use a range of technologies and operational systems to reduce congestion and smooth the flow of traffic. During busy periods, traffic officers will set overhead message signs to inform drivers they can use the hard shoulder as an extra lane and at what speed to drive.

Neil Taylor, operations manager at the West Midlands Regional Control Centre, said: ‘The information displayed along the motorway has been carefully designed to be intuitive, so drivers should stay alert and follow the information they see.

‘They should only use the hard shoulder when there is a speed limit displayed above it. If there isn't a speed limit, or there's a red X over it, then it's for emergency use only.’

The M6 smart motorway launch is the second to go live this week, with an eight-mile section of the M25 in Hertfordshire having become a smart motorway on Monday (14th April). Here the hard shoulder is being used as a permanent running lane to reduce congestion. However, the scheme has prompted safety concerns.

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.