Final stretch reopening to complete M1 smart motorway project in Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes

This will finish scheme that has seen roadworks on the M1 for years
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The opening of the final stretch of M1 upgrade has begun to complete the conversion spanning Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes.

National Highways has announced the 6.5 mile stretch of motorway from junction 15 for Northampton to junction 16 (Nether Heyford Interchange) started its phased reopening on Tuesday (November 15). An extra, fourth lane is being made available in both directions. The section is due to have the additional lane open by 6am on Friday (November 18).

This is part of a wider scheme to change the whole stretch from junction 13 to junction 16 to smart motorway. The stretch from junction 13 to junction 14 is already open as an all-lanes running motorway and a fourth lane between junction 14 to junction 15 opened in September. It is expected to fully open, with the national speed limit restored, in the coming weeks. Once fully open, the whole stretch spanning Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes will include 46 new emergency areas if drivers need to stop in an emergency.

The final stretch of the M1 upgrade to smart motorway in Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes is being completed.The final stretch of the M1 upgrade to smart motorway in Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes is being completed.
The final stretch of the M1 upgrade to smart motorway in Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes is being completed.

While the latest stretch is undergoing a phased opening, drivers will see a 60mph speed limit in place, temporary additional CCTV from the roadworks, and a free recovery service alongside the new permanent systems while final technology tests are carried out. The testing can only happen when there are no roadworks, and when drivers are able to use all lanes of the upgraded carriageway.

Throughout the process of converting the stretch of motorway, concerns have been raised surrounding the safety of the system. Northamptonshire Police Chief Constable, Nick Adderley, previously said he is “not a fan” of scrapping hard shoulders in favour of an extra live lane.

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In July, one man died and four passengers were injured on an existing stretch of smart motorway in Northamptonshire, near junction 17. Crash investigators believe the victim was standing behind a stalled Mercedes in lane one when it was in collision with a Toyota Previa.

According to National Highways, on motorways where the hard shoulder has been converted to a traffic lane, there is a system of features working together to help keep traffic moving safely.

The safety features are:

-Variable speed limits to help keep traffic moving-

-Clearly signed and orange-coloured emergency areas set back from the road and with telephones linking directly to control rooms

-Detection systems to monitor traffic for changes in flows and speeds, including stopped vehicle detection to spot stopped vehicles and get help on the way more quickly

-CCTV cameras that operators are able to move and zoom to monitor and manage congestion and incidents, where notified. The system has the ability to see 100 percent of the carriageway

-Signs and signals to provide better information and that can alert drivers to hazards ahead and display Red X signals to close lanes to other traffic when a stopped vehicle is identified

-Enforcement cameras to deter the minority who break speed limits and ignore Red X signs

All this is overseen and joined up by dedicated National Highways teams, both in control rooms and on road, who monitor 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.