Roads revolution: £11bn project will see roadside wi-fi, new expressways and hundreds of miles of new smart motorways

Road traffic is expected to soar over the next few decades

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The Independent Online

An £11bn roads revolution that will see the creation of roadside wi-fi, new “expressways” and hundreds of miles of new smart motorways is to be announced next week, according to a report.

Eighteen of the busiest A roads will be turned into expressways or mini motorways by removing many junctions, restricting slow-moving traffic like bicycles and building exit and entrance lanes, The Times newspaper said. The first roads to be upgraded will be the A303 and A30 from the junction with the M3 to Exeter; the A1 north of Newcastle; the A14 from Huntingdon to Cambridge; the A556 between the M56 and M6; and the A46 between the A1 and M1.

Roadside wi-fi would be used to send traffic updates and other information to vehicles. Mast will be set up along roads such as the M2, M20, M25 and M26.

Some 400 miles of “smart motorways” would also be created. These operate with variable speed limits designed to keep traffic moving and can open the hard shoulder as an extra lane during busy periods.

The Highways Agency is also to become a new company owned by the Government called Highways England.

A Highways Agency spokesman said: “Innovation will be a major driving force behind everything that Highways England does over the next five years… These changes will improve journeys for our customers, boost safety and drive economic growth.”

Road traffic is expected to soar over the next few decades. Vehicles currently travel a total of about 274 billion miles, but this is forecast to rise to nearly 368 billion by 2040.

Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said expressways “might not be marked blue on the map but are often as busy, fast and important as motorways”.

“It is right they should be brought up to the same standards in terms of safety and traffic management,” he said.

However the new road projects could prove controversial.

Ralph Smyth, transport campaign manager with The Campaign to Protect Rural England, told The Times: “The focus of the roads programme should be consistently higher safety standards rather than pretending it is necessary to build four lanes of roads to every corner of the country.

“The reality is that in a country as densely populated as England, there will never be a guarantee of congestion- free motoring, however many more lanes are built.”