It’s believed our roads could be full to capacity by 2050!


Hard shoulders on some of the UK’s major motorways are to be removed to allow for higher volumes of traffic in the future.

The fear is that our roads could become full to capacity by the year 2050 and by turning more of our major motorways into smart motorways, this will allow for higher volumes of traffic and help clear standstills that are a common occurrence these days.

According to Highways England, these changes will affect much of the motorway network between Birmingham and London, Bristol, Leeds and Manchester.

The hard shoulder is removed to make way for a smart motorway, which enables a higher capacity of vehicles to pass as the lane can be opened or closed depending on the volume of traffic. They help ease the flow of traffic, especially in the event of an accident.

It's believed our roads could be full to capacity by 2050!

Hard shoulders on UK motorways to be removed to allow for higher volumes of traffic © Copyright N Chadwick and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.


On these stretches of road, variable speed limits are also in place and serve a similar function.

A new broadband-style system is also in the pipeline which will transmit traffic information to vehicles and enable drivers to choose an alternative route if a particular motorway is too busy.

It’s expected that this new plan will be up and running by 2040.

However, despite these somewhat drastic ideas, they are only expected to partly address the stretch put on roads up and down the country.

Forecasters suggest that half of the motorways and major A-roads will experience levels of traffic similar to that of the M25 for “significant periods of time” and this is despite the fact that billions of pounds are being spent on upgrades.

Reports believe that 50% of major roads in the UK, around 2,000 miles, will be placed under “stress.”

Due to the growth in population, falling fuel costs and increased distances travelled, traffic in the UK is expected to grown between 27-57%.

According to the chief executive of Highways England, Jim O’Sullivan, some roads are already running above the capacity they were designed for.

One such example is an area of the M25 in the southwest, which is currently operating at 20-30% above capacity.

“There are sections of our network that we know are not full yet but even if we build everything that we intend to build now, will still be full in the future,” said Mr O’Sullivan.

According to forecasts, half of the UK’s major road network will be under similar strain by 2050 and includes the M25, M1 and M6.

Mr O’Sullivan added: “I wouldn’t envisage it being Friday night traffic all of the time but traffic would not achieve our target operating speeds on 50 per cent of the networks by 2050″.

The M6, M25, M1, M40 and M42 would be turned into smart motorways under the proposals, plus broadband would be installed within the middle of the motorways to allow for traffic information to be relayed directly into vehicles, warning drivers of potential traffic jams.

The work is set to start in 2023 and will be finished sometime between 2030 and 2040 – the cost will be around £30 billion.


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