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M42 The good the bad and the ugly

The Freight Transport Association is a big supporter of the M42 Active Traffic Management scheme between junctions 3a and 7. However, members of the Association remain concerned regarding the lorry overtaking ban further up the road between junctions 10 and 11.

The latest developments on the M42 were discussed at a meeting of the FTA West Midlands Freight Council held in Coventry on Tuesday (17 October). FTA members welcomed the switch on of the M42 Active Traffic Management between junctions 3a to 7. Although ATM has only been in operation for just over a month, members reported slight improvements in journey time reliability due to the smoother flow of traffic along this stretch of road. The opening of the hard shoulder at peak times has led to improvements in capacity.

FTA's Head of Policy for Midlands, Wales and South West England, Stephen Kelly, said, 'FTA and its members have been very supportive of the Active Traffic Management scheme that has been developed by the Highways Agency, although we maintain that such innovative initiatives are merely short to medium term solutions and are no substitute for the widening of our key trade routes. Industry is heavily dependent on journey time reliability and initial results suggest that the increase in capacity along the route is showing positive results. In addition, the improved driving flow along this stretch must be beneficial for the environment in terms of reduced emissions and improved air quality, whereas previously the stop-start nature of vehicles due to heavy congestion brought with it environmental issues and problems. All good news.

'In terms of the 'bad', members say that the improvement in journey times along the ATM stretch of the M42 is being eradicated when approaching junctions 10-11 northbound on the M42 where commercial vehicles over 7.5 tonnes are subject to an overtaking ban. The aim of the ban was also to improve journey time reliability. That ban has now been in place for twelve months and a full and detailed report is expected before the end of October. However, FTA has received some initial, anecdotal results.

'The Highways Agency says that its initial findings have been positive, with journey times of light vehicles in lane two improving by 2.5 per cent – an improvement of five seconds! This minor improvement in journey times leads me to ask whether the benefits of that scheme are worth the cost of its introduction. Journey times for light vehicles may have improved, but I would doubt whether journey times for lorries have.

'Within a 10-15 mile stretch of the M42, improved journey times resulting from the ATM project are being wiped out because of the nonsensical lorry ban further north. I just hope that there is no 'ugly' for industry along the M42 in future!'

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