The Transport Secretary, Geoff Hoon is gearing up to expand the use of the hard shoulder for traffic as part of a £6million plan.
Another 520 miles of motorway will have its capacity increased, including the M1, M3, M4, M6, M25 and M62.
Now I’m all for improving congestion – my 100 mile round trip to the office takes a total of four hours, an average of just 25mph – but removing the hard shoulder is a crazy idea.
For all their faults, motorways are a terrific way of moving huge volumes of traffic. Tens of thousands of vehicles take to Britain’s motorways every day, and a small number need the refuge of the hard shoulder, whether that be for a minor problem, like a flat tyre or a serious mechanical fault.
They’re not exactly safe though, and a AA patrolman once told me if you stood on the white line between the hard shoulder and the inside lane, your life expectancy would be 11 minutes. That’s exactly why breakdown patrols tow rather than fix cars at the roadside.
But to remove the hard shoulder completely – and the small amount of safety it offers – will cost lives.
Would you want to change a tyre in the slow lane while cars, lorries, vans and coaches swerved around you at high speed?
Of course not – there is really only one outcome, and that certainly won’t be pretty.
And there’s more. Even the slightest bump or breakdown causes miles of tailbacks with drivers slowing to indulge their voyeuristic side – and that’s with the vehicles out of the low of traffic.
It’s even worse when those vehicles are blocking the lanes.
Studies indicate congestion costs £20bn every year. Something clearly needs to be done, but please Mr Hoon, widen the roads, develop an infrastructure to take freight off the roads. Just don’t take our hard shoulders.