Two more years of M1 delays in South Yorkshire from £358m ‘smart motorway’ scheme

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Motorists face a further two years of 50mph speed limits along the M1 as £358 million of work takes place to turn the road into a ‘smart motorway’.

The Highways Agency says the scheme, affecting 31.3 miles between junctions 28 and 35A, will not be fully completed until winter 2016.

Andy Kirk, Highways Agency project manager, at the M1 exhibition

Andy Kirk, Highways Agency project manager, at the M1 exhibition

Drivers have faced slower speed limits along stretches of the M1 since November last year, when barrier replacement work began.

That scheme, which is almost complete, has overlapped with the start of the smart motorways project, which began its initial phase in August. The project will allow the hard shoulder to be used as a fourth lane during busy times and use CCTV and overhead signs to control speeds and improve traffic flow by anticipating congestion problems.

Andy Kirk, senior project manager for the Highways Agency, said the speed limits were ‘frustrating’ for drivers - but necessary for allowing roadworks to take place safely. Speaking at a public exhibition about the plans at Meadowhall yesterday, he said the work would have long-term benefits for motorists by cutting congestion.

“We are going to have to have a 50mph speed limit for the safety of the workforce and the travelling public.

Andy Kirk, Highways Agency project manager, at the M1 exhibition

Andy Kirk, Highways Agency project manager, at the M1 exhibition

“It is very frustrating and we all have to drive through it. But the benefit when it is done is a more reliable journey and a safer journey. We should be cutting down the amount of congestion,” he said.

Mr Kirk said the work is also being used as an opportunity to carry out road resurfacing works - meaning no further major projects will be needed on the M1 there for at least five years after the project is completed.

Currently, work is taking place between junctions 28 and 31, due to finish in autumn 2015. Work will start on the northern leg of the scheme between junctions 32 and 35A next year and will be done by winter 2016.

Further exhibitions are running today at The Source, Meadowhall, and at Brinsworth Community Hall, Rotherham.