Highways England set to trial higher motorway roadworks speed limits

As part of pioneering trials, Highways England has announced it is looking at raising speed limits through motorway roadworks depending on the day motorists are travelling and how intensive work is.

The national roads body is looking to see whether varying speed limits could safely be operated within a set of roadworks without increasing the risks to either drivers or road workers. It could mean speed limits are increased to 60mph on a Sunday if there is less activity taking place, and then brought back down to 50mph when road workers are working within a few feet of passing traffic.

The trials are outlined in the company’s Delivery Plan Update for 2018/19 which are part of plans which establish how the company is continuing to deliver the government’s £15bn road investment programme until 2020.

It is also exploring if different speed limits could operate within one set of roadworks. This could mean people commute to work on one carriageway at 50mph as they are nearer the workforce, but drive home on the other carriageway at 60mph as the road workers are further away.

Jim O’Sullivan, chief executive of Highways England, said the organisation was working hard to give drivers better information on changes to the road network.

“People understand roadworks are necessary but are also frustrated by them, he added. “At the same time we have to ensure as they drive through them that they, and our road workers, are safe. So, we are always thinking of new ways to improve journeys at the same time as keeping everyone as safe as we can. That is why over the next 12 months we will test changes to the design and operation of roadworks.”

Other elements in the update identify the importance of working overnight to reduce the impact on road users during the day and building upon last year’s results recorded from March 2017 to February 2018 which saw 85% of roadworks completed overnight – 5% more from the year before.

Highways England will also be targeting maintaining and renewing the existing strategic road network which includes resurfacing 1,118 lane miles of road surface - nearly the same number of lane miles as the entire M1 carriageway.

Bosses have also highlighted the need to look to the future by continuing to explore and seek innovative approaches which could change the way roads are operated and maintained. More work will be undertaken with industry partners on the research and testing into connected and autonomous vehicles.

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