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Motorway car share lane must benefit all road users to be a success

The Freight Transport Association has given a cautious welcome to the opening of the UK's first motorway car share lane on a trial basis at the junction of the M606 and M62 today. The new lane, called a High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane, has been created from the existing hard shoulder and is intended to cut journey times for drivers with one or more passengers when accessing the M62 eastbound from the M606 leaving Bradford.

Highways Agency modelling suggests that journey times for vehicles using the HOV lane will be cut by six to eight minutes. However, FTA is concerned about the ramifications for the traffic flow on the existing road. In theory, diverting multi-occupancy vehicles into a dedicated lane should free up the motorway for other road users, including heavy goods vehicles. FTA's reservations centre around the potential confusion that the lane will create for motorists on an already complex junction. Any hesitancy by motorists over their use of the lane could mean that the existing traffic flow characteristics at the junction are undermined, leading to worse or less predictable journey times.

FTA is also sceptical about the extent of enforcement of the HOV lane rules. Other HOV lanes, such as that on the A647 (Stanningley Road) are notorious for the lack of effective enforcement.

Malcolm Bingham, FTA's Head of Road Network Management Policy said, 'The benefits to freight from the introduction of the HOV lane are very precarious. The lane has the potential to create driver confusion and erratic lane indiscipline which could make traffic flow on the junction for other traffic worse rather than better. The use of the hard shoulder as a running lane also cuts down the options for emergency services and traffic officers when an incident occurs at the junction.

'The Highways Agency must not pay lip service to the trial. Vehicle flow conditions for all vehicles need to improve and road accidents should not increase if the trial is to be a success.'

The Freight Transport Association represents the transport interests of companies moving goods by road, rail, sea and air. FTA members operate over 220,000 goods vehicles – almost half the UK fleet. In addition they consign over 90 per cent of the freight moved by rail and over 70 per cent of sea and air freight. FTA's website can be found at www.fta.co.uk

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