Road tsar will slow cars to cut jams

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S MOTORISTS face tighter controls on their driving under plans aimed at cutting traffic jams, ministers announced yesterday.

A package of measures, including crawler lanes for slow-moving traffic on motorways and low-speed zones, will be rolled out by the Highways Agency, which oversees the nation's major roads.

The agency, whose head Lawrie Haynes has been dubbed the "car tsar", said there were plans to expand the trials of the variable speed limits system on the M25. On busy sections of London's orbital motorway, drivers are told to go slower than 70mph to prevent a traffic jam building up.

Variable limits have proved a success during the two years of operation between junctions 10 and 15 on the M25. Police say there has been a 28 per cent reduction in accidents and there has been a 15 per cent increase in drivers using the nearside lane.

The experiment will be extended to other sections of the M25, the M5 and M6 around Birmingham and on stretches of busy motorways around Manchester.

Officials pointed out there had been a drop in pollution attributed to car exhausts and much "smoother" traffic flows.

Also being considered is a futuristic vision of an "automated highway". This would see a complex electronic monitoring system ensure cars "communicated" with each other so they can travel at a constant speed at a safe distance apart.

"It is some way off, but there are working examples in progress," said one official. The agency has already examined a Californian experiment where motorists drive onto a moving "belt" that transports vehicles along a stretch of highway.

The agency also plans to introduce crawler lanes to the M25 within two years, between junctions 16 and 19 on the west side of the motorway and east of junction 27 on the north-east section. This will see lorries and heavy vehicles using the hard shoulder in a carefully controlled operation.

"We are also looking to the agency to promote better connections with train services and link up with park-and-ride schemes around towns and cities," said Lord Whitty, the roads minister. He said the agency will also "shift emphasis from road building".

"We are looking to make maintenance a priority and have given the agency pounds 300 million more to spend," he said.

Motoring organisations welcomed the new package. Peter Brill, the RAC's technology spokesman, said: " Motorists do not want to sit in congestion and need to be able to make smart, informed choices about time, mode and route of travel."

However, the lorry lobby was concerned the plans were not detailed enough.

A spokesman for the Road Haulage Association said: "If we wish to make maximum use of our roads network, we have to start to distinguish between those using the roads for private, social purposes and those depending upon the roads for their livelihood."

Queue-Busting schemes

Nottingham Driver Information system uses electronic

messages to warn drivers of jams

London Variable speed limits on busy stretches of

M25; Crawler lane on M25

Hull Free emergency service to clear stranded cars

from highway

Swansea Cars fitted with electronic messaging systems to warn drivers of jams

Manchester Variable speed limits on stretches of city's

northern road system