Plan to close roads and cut jams

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Lanes on the nation's highways may be handed over to lorries, be only available to multi-occupancy vehicles, and roads could be closed to traffic in order to ease congestion.

The radical package of "tools", paving the way for parts of the transport White Paper, was launched by transport minister Baroness Hayman yesterday.

The new approach, developed by the Highways Agency, which manages the motorway and trunk road network, could see sections of road closed down to reduce delays.

Proposed is a pilot scheme at the junction of the M3 and M27 motorways in Hampshire which would see the entry slip-roads closed down at peak periods.

According to the agency, "high traffic flows cause a breakdown in traffic flow - resulting in congestion". The trial scheme would see traffic lights used to close a road for a period of time and re-open it once the main carriageway is clear of traffic.

Another proposal is to introduce hard shoulder crawler lanes on motorways for lorries which have to reduce speeds going uphill.

Roundabouts also face redesigns in order to increase the number of cars an hour passing through road junctions.

Anti-social behaviour by drivers at junctions will also be studied by the agency, which aims to film motorists with CCTV cameras.

Motorists also face electronic roadside signs urging them to leave the roads and take a train instead. The only scheme trialled so far took place while major road works were taking place on the A4/M4 corridor in London. This saw signs displaying train information on the highways - and one company, Thames Trains, reported an extra 2,000 to 3,000 passengers a day during the trial.

Lawrie Haynes, chief executive of the Highways Agency, said: "We cannot allow road traffic growth to spiral. We must begin to address how we can bring about a transport system that gives people freedom to travel using the method that best suits their needs, while protecting the environment and sustaining economic prosperity."

The document does not refer to motorway tolling, which ministers privately consider as being at least a decade away from appearing on Britain's roads.