The government’s hard shoulder plan deserves the cold shoulder

More cars will be allowed to drive on hard shoulders in the future

More cars will be allowed to drive on hard shoulders in the future

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.



Filed under Driving, Topics

5 responses to “The government’s hard shoulder plan deserves the cold shoulder

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  2. Those are valid points from both kcautotrader and Dom Sacco, one problem I can see is that you cannot always choose where you’re vehicle breaks down, what if you get a blowout/puncture midway between refuge spots or sudden engine failure? The part time lane idea seems to me like a recipe for disaster.

  3. Dom Sacco

    I’m all for widening roads and adding new motorway lanes, but using the hard shoulder for traffic is a bad idea in my opinion.

    How will emergency vehicles get to their destinations on time? If the breakdown ‘refuge spots’ work, and an ’emergency vehicle’ lane is added, then it might not be so bad.

  4. kcautotrader

    As I understand, where the hard shoulders are being used for traffic there will be ‘refuge spots’ for drivers who have broken down.

    They’ve been trialling it around Birmingham for a while and I’ve driven along the stretch where they’ve had it quite a few times. It seems to work fairly well – sometimes the hard shoulder is used for traffic, sometimes it isn’t, and there are lights above the lanes to tell you when you can and can’t use it.

    So perhaps it could work alright. But I worry what happens when someone isn’t paying attention and drives down the hard shoulder when it’s supposed to be closed.

  5. It’s a completely insane idea, it seems that the transport minister is willing to sacrifice a few motorists to further his agenda, while possibly creating even more conjestion. It makes me wonder if this particular policy maker actually lives in the real world?

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