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Cars could be banned from parts of the Lake District

Cars could be banned from parts of the Lake District

Cars could be banned from the Lake District as part of plans to cut congestion in the National Park.

The Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) and National Trust are looking at car-free zones and traffic management schemes, starting with the hamlet of Seathwaite.

Research carried out by National Parks UK in 2014 found that 93 percent of National Park visitors arrived by car. “It is not much fun being on the shores of somewhere such as Windermere on a bike or on foot when the A592 is nose to tail,“ said Julian Glover in the Landscapes Review, published earlier this year.

The LDNPA notes that 50 percent of its carbon budget is made up of emissions from visitors, much of which is from cars.

But cars are a big source of income for National Park authorities. The LDNPA charges up to £500 for an annual permit, and such fees “may be both a deterrent to car use and an incentive to National Parks to tolerate their continuation,” says Glover.

“We need to address traffic issues in the National Park,” said Thomas Burditt, National Trust general manager for the North Lakes. “Car-free zones are an option we are considering. We are in discussions with residents, the Highways Agency and the parish council.”

According to a report in The Times, the National Trust will present research on car-free zones at a summit in Kendal on Tuesday. Residents of Seathwaite would be able to use their vehicles inside the proposed zone.

‘Loved to death’

Tourists Lake District

Kate Willshaw, officer for the Friends of the Lake District, said: “The Lakes are such an amazing place, but parts of it are being loved to death.

“A lot of it is still wild and tranquil, of course. But there are certain areas that are getting congested, such as Bowness, Keswick and Windermere. We call these places honeypots. They attract people because they are an easy win. You can get to them without driving on single-track roads, and the views are magnificent.”

In a 2018 report entitled National Parks for all: Making car-free travel easier, it was found that visitors arriving by public transport spend more than those arriving by car. They are more likely to spend money on food and drink locally and are more likely to pay for tourist attractions.

Many parts of the National Parks are served by the National Cycle Network, and it’s possible to combine cycling and rail travel for shorter trips. 

Cars parked in the Lake District

It’s not clear whether or not the proposed car-free zone in the Lake District will include electric vehicles, but given this is as much about congestion as it is about air quality, they’re unlikely to be exempt from the ban. 

The 2018 report said “greater use of electric vehicles would reduce the carbon emissions from road transport at the point of use although it would not reduce the number of vehicles in the Parks”. It referenced a Renault Twizy hire scheme in the Lake District.

Many locals would welcome a ban. “Congestion is horrendous and getting much worse. There was a fire in one of the houses near us and the fire engine couldn’t get down, there were so many cars parked,” said a local farmer in The Times.

“Right now, today, there are dozens of cars parked from our entrance right down the road. That’s a normal Friday. I would love this to be a car-free zone.”

60 years of our love-hate relationship with the motorway

60 years of the M1 motorway

“Take it easy, motorist,” was the advice given to drivers by Ernest Marples as he officially opened the M1 motorway on this day in 1959.

“If in doubt, don’t,” he warned, as if to pre-empt the behaviour of motorists as they took to the motorway for the first time. In those days, of course, the speed limit wasn’t governed by legislation, simply by what a car could manage.

Perhaps more importantly, the top speed was limited by the courage and talent of the motorist. Accidents were commonplace, as drivers realised they lacked the skills of Messrs Hawthorn, Hill and Clark.

Less than five years later, Jack Sears hit 185mph in an AC Cobra Coupe GT on the M1, using the motorway to do a test run ahead of the Le Mans 24 Hours. As Sears said in an Autocar article, “many teams were using the motorway for test runs”, including Rootes Group, Jaguar and Aston Martin.

A 70mph speed limit was introduced in July 1967, although the legislation doesn’t appear to have been influenced by the antics of Sears in 1964.

Oh that motorway, ain’t it a thrill to be so free

Congestion on the M1 motorway

To mark the 60th anniversary of Britain’s first city to city motorway, the Guardian has published an article from October 1959, which is best read with the style of a Pathé newsreader in your head.

The 72 miles from London to Birmingham increased the length of Britain’s motorway network to 80 miles. Today, that figure is around 2,300 miles – less than 1 percent of the entire road network.

But the importance of the motorway network cannot be underestimated. Last year, motorways carried 69 billion vehicle miles of traffic – up 10.9 percent on the same period in 2008.

The Ministry of Transport estimated that an average of 14,000 vehicles a day would use the M1 between London and Birmingham in 1960, reducing casualties by 500 and saving 2.7 million hours of driving.

We’ve developed a kind of love-hate relationship with the motorway network, relying on it to reach our destination quickly, efficiently and without fuss. When the network delivers on its promise, we don’t give it a second thought.

But when something goes wrong – accidents, Bank Holiday traffic and congestion – we moan that the network is creaking at the seams and not fit for purpose. Visiting a motorway service area tends to give us something to moan about, too. Still, it makes a change from the weather.

Back in the 1960s, motorways were destinations in themselves. People would visit the three-lane ribbons of adventure that could move cars like a conveyor belt of shopping in a supermarket. Restaurants would cater for the motorway tourists, who’d watch the traffic go by behind huge expanses of glass. Those days are gone.

Riding down the motorway, cats eyes, cold meat pies

M1 motorway Redbourn

Today, the motorway is facing a period of change. Smart motorways are arguably the most controversial thing to hit the network since the 70mph speed limit, while a future of autonomous cars could change the way we use the roads forever.

Reading old newspaper reports makes for fascinating reading. In a separate Guardian article, the editorial slams the ‘slow progress’ of the construction programme and draws a comparison with Victorian railway promoters.

‘No one can say when the M1 will be finished,’ it grumbles, before highlighting the proposed expansion of the network, including, quite interestingly, the M3 stretching all the way to Exeter.

‘In an age of serious contemplation of travel to the moon it seems senseless that no British Government has yet devised means of enabling traffic to move more freely on the ground at home,’ it concludes.

We’ve since been to the moon and back – and have sent a car into space – but moving freely on the motorway seems out of reach to the beleaguered commuters on the M25, M1 and M6. Take it easy out there.

Operation Brock goes live as Brexit deadline extended

Operation Brock Brexit October

Operation Brock, a series of measures to keep Kent traffic moving in the event of post-Brexit disruption, has been activated. The move comes despite the fact that Brexit has been delayed a further three months until the end of January 2020. 

One side of the M20 will be reserved for the flow of Europe-bound lorries and HGVs over 7.5 tonnes. Lorries headed across the channel will be restricted to 30mph between junction eight (Maidstone) and junction nine (Ashford). The London-bound side will be turned into a 50mph contraflow carrying the rest of traffic heading both ways.

This will keep regular in-England commuters ‘safe’ in the case of disruptions to haulage flow across the channel.

Operation Brock: next steps

Beyond this, it’s possible that Manston Airport could be used as a lorry park, while HGV traffic could be directed to the M26, which would be dedicated to cross-border haulage.

How long will it be active?

The last time Operation Brock went live was four days before the March 2019 Brexit deadline. In that instance, an extension was also granted. It’s possible, if not probable that, as in March, Operation Brock will be active for no longer than a month.

Operation Brock: Explained in full

Working closely with the Kent Resilience Forum, the government has implemented the scheme to minimise delays to Europe-bound freight, while protecting local roads from disruption.

Lorries heading for mainland Europe will need to use the coast-bound carriageway of the M20 between junctions eight and nine, with a 30mph speed restriction in place.

All other traffic will run on the London-bound carriageway between these junctions, with two lanes operating at 50mph.

The system goes live ahead of the UK’s exit from the European Union on 31 October. Delays on the M20 are widely predicted.

The M20 will be kept open in both directions for non-freight traffic, with Operation Brock designed to reduce the impact on local residents, businesses and public services in Kent.

‘Robust plans’

Transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris, said: “We want residents in Kent and hauliers travelling from across the EU to be reassured that there are robust plans in place to deal with any disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

“We now need everyone to do their bit – whether you are travelling to see family, heading to work or transporting vital goods around the country, please check before you travel to ensure you know what to expect and have the right documents when heading to the border.”

During Operation Brock, hauliers heading to Europe via Dover or the Channel Tunnel will need to follow the dedicated Operation Brock routes and adhere to any diversions, speed instructions or special instructions.

Hauliers are also advised that they will need to show the right paperwork before reaching the border. Non-compliance will result in fines and further delays.

Traffic officers in Kent will have new and enhanced powers to ensure hauliers comply with the Operation Brock system.

Local residents are advised that from 26 to 27 October there will be overnight closures between junctions seven and nine on the M20, as final works are completed ahead of Brexit.

Policy manager for South East England at Freight Transport Association Heidi Skinner said: “Any move which keeps traffic flowing to and from the coast, and through and around Kent, is to be welcomed in order to keep Britain trading.

“Our members have been asking for clarity on the arrangements for some time, so this news will help them to prepare for a potential no deal Brexit and any resulting traffic disruption which may occur.”

Revealed: Britain’s best serviced motorways

Is M74 the best motorway

It’s certainly one of the most dramatic motorways in Britain. According to Roads.org.uk, it’s also one of the most interesting. But is the M74 Britain’s best serviced motorway?

New research suggests that it could be, and there’s a pretty compelling argument to support the claim.

By analysing data on congestion, frequency of motorway services and customer satisfaction at the services, the M74 in Scotland is ranked first, with a score of 91.5 percent.

With six service stations along the 85-mile stretch of M74 and A74(M) between Glasgow and Gretna, the motorway scores top marks for frequency of motorway services. It also scores a near perfect 18.2 (out of 20) for congestion.

M74 motorway in Scotland

The M74 finishes ahead of the A1(M), which scores 20 for congestion, 38.2 (out of 40) for frequency and 30.1 (out of 40) for customer satisfaction.

Meanwhile, the M8 between Edinburgh and Glasgow is ranked bottom. Its caused isn’t helped by the complete absence of proper motorway services, with the Heart of Scotland little more than ”just a large BP garage“.

As anyone who has travelled on the M27 in Hampshire will testify, Rownhams is a place to avoid. The services near Southampton score the lowest mark for congestion and customer satisfaction.

Best (and worst) motorways for services

MotorwayOverall (%)Congestion (out of 20)Frequency (out of 40)Satisfaction (out of 40)
1. M7492184033
2. A1(M)89203831
3. M6 (north of M62)86193630
4. M6 (south of M62)78153330
5. M577163130
6. M476172930
7. M4275113628
8. M1 (south of M6)70132928
9. M236412934
10. M2064142229
11. M62 (east of Pennines)61102031
12. M4061122029
13. M566062430
14. M62 (west of Pennines)5891534
15. M25 (western links)5852032
16. M1 (north of M6)56151329
17. M9539440
18. M24641131
19. M3427727
20. M273701126
21. M25 (eastern links)365526
22. M11322229
23. M8283026

In August, Norton Canes on the M6 Toll was named Britain’s best motorway services by Transport Focus, while Westmorland was named best operator, scoring 97 percent for customer satisfaction across its four sites in Cumbria and Gloucestershire.

Do you agree with the Just Tyres study? Let us know in the comments below.

Click here to view the data in full.

Smart motorways should be banned, says road safety group

Rex X smart motorways

A road safety organisation has joined the calls to put the brakes on the rollout of smart motorways.

Some argue the absence of a hard shoulder makes smart motorways more dangerous than conventional motorways – a claim disputed by Highways England.

It says journey reliability has improved by 22 percent and personal injury accidents have reduced by more than a half since the introduction of the first smart motorway in 2006.

But Gem Motoring Assist is calling for smart motorways to be banned until a proper safety review has been carried out. It’s also demanding more refuge areas to provide a safe haven for stranded motorists.

‘Proper safety review’ is required

Smart motorways dangerous

Gem road safety officer Neil Worth said: “Motorways may be the fastest roads we use, but they are statistically also the safest; and there are fewer collisions on motorways than on other roads.

“However, the high speeds used on motorways mean that when there is a crash, it is likely to be more serious. That’s why, on average, around one in 50 motorway collisions is fatal, compared with one in 70 on all other roads.

“We are also asking ministers and highways authorities specifically to call a halt to their rollout of smart motorways across the country until a proper review of safety has been completed and adequate refuge areas provided for drivers.

“In order to maximise safety, we also urge drivers to ensure they know the rules and signs relating to smart motorways, which are becoming more commonplace.”

‘Safest in the world’

Red X closed lanes smart motorway fines

Highways England insists smart motorways are safe and is investing around £3 billion in their rollout until 2020.

The agency faced criticism last month after a lorry ploughed into the back of a broken down vehicle in a stretch of hard shoulder being used as a live lane of the M1 near Chesterfield. 

When asked about the dangers of smart motorways, a spokesperson for Highways England told Derbyshire Live that it would “never carry out a major improvement scheme” without being confident in maintaining its roads as “among the very safest in the world”.

“Smart motorways are good for drivers, adding vital extra lanes to some of our busiest motorways and making journeys safer and more reliable. As with other roads, we monitor the safety performance of smart motorways and are rolling out enhancements to improve the road user experience.“

Click here for our guide to driving on a smart motorway.

Highways England responds

Highways England has responded, saying its own assessment shows that accident and injury figures are falling. Collisions and casualties are, it says, 4.3 and 5.9 percent lower respectively than in 2017.Motorway speed limit 80

Emergency areas, slip-road hard shoulders and other places to stop in emergencies are located at least every 1.5 miles on all-lane running stretches of motorway. Highways England reiterated its commitment to reducing that distance to one mile from 2020.

“Safety is the top priority for Highways England and we urge everyone who uses our roads to make it theirs, too,” said Highways England head of road safety, Richard Leonard.

“Any death, on any type of road, is one too many. We’re working hard to improve England’s motorways and A-roads and we need your help. We all have a role to play to make sure we all get home, safe and well and we’re asking all drivers to make their own safety, and that of other people, the most important thing to think about when they travel. Remember to check your vehicle, obey all signs and think about other drivers.”

Google Maps lets you report roadworks

google maps construction

Google’s Maps navigation app has added a function that allows you to report roadworks. Following in the footsteps of Waze and its user-driven facilities, Google has added this, following shortly after the addition of speed camera locations.

It was a relatively quiet addition to the Maps user report arsenal, with the little yellow ‘construction’ symbol appearing overnight.

google maps construction

As is the case with many Google software rollouts, it’s not a one and done, ‘everyone has it’ scenario. The facility is appearing steadily on different devices at different times.

As with Waze, it ought to prove a useful feature for motorists, allowing you to report pop-up roadworks that the navigation facility may not have reacted to yet.

google maps construction

Google Maps has been playing catchup for a little while, with Waze pioneering the user-contribution model. What once seemed controversial – the ability to report speed traps – is a feature on the original navigation app, along with crashes, slowdowns and now construction.

Does this put Google Maps ahead of Waze? Now, all that the latter has over the former is adverts and local petrol prices. That said, Google Maps is ahead of the curve, displaying charging stations and whether they’re in use.

Heathrow Airport is getting a congestion charge

Heathrow Airport congestion charge

A new penalty system for drivers will be introduced at Heathrow Airport to coincide with the opening of the third runway in 2026. This, to an end of getting its third runway operating at capacity, without adding any cars to the road.

The charge is expected to yield around £1.2 billion a year. That’s if the expected 65,000 vehicles a day pay the predicted £50 daily charge (accounting for inflation) by 2040.

The charge is to be levied on all cars, from hulking gas guzzlers to whisper-quiet electric cars – Heathrow’s congestion charge will not discriminate. The aim is to incentivise the use of public transport by those wanting to fly from Heathrow. 

Thus the amount of Heathrow-related traffic will remain the same at the very least, or decrease. It expects 55 percent of passengers will use public transport to get to the airport by 2050. This, by comparison to the 40 percent that did so in 2015.

Can Heathrow’s public transport links cope?

Heathrow Airport congestion charge

There are worries, however, that public transport links would not be able to cope as drivers try to escape charges. Even without the extra 756,000 flights per year that the new runway will allow.

A new east-west Crossrail line is planned, along with an upgrade of the Tube’s Piccadilly Line and improved bus services, to handle to extra passenger volume. 

In addition, Heathrow Southern Railway is pitching to build an eight-mile link from Waterloo. There are also plans to increase train infrastructure between Reading and Heathrow.

Heathrow Airport congestion charge

Given that the two lines are to be confirmed, with a decision ‘yet to be made’ by the Heathrow consultation, speculation is rife on whether the current infrastructure will cope.

For the moment, then, travellers could be faced with little choice than to drive and swallow the charges. Heathrow Southern Railway warns that “this will cause resentment as there will be no practicable way for people in this area of the country to avoid the charge”.

Recovery workers offered smart motorway training

Smart motorway training for recovery operators

Roadside rescue and recovery operators are to be offered smart motorway training in a bid to improve safety. 

The new course – the Smart Motorways Awareness For The Roadside Rescue & Recovery Industry – is the first of its kind and has been developed by Highways England and the Network Training Partnership.

Operators will receive guidance on how to attend breakdowns or collisions on the smart motorway network.

In August, Highways England data revealed that breaking down in a live lane on an all-lane-running smart motorway is 216 percent more dangerous than doing so on a conventional motorway with a hard shoulder.

Earlier this month, we reported that the widow of a man killed on the M1 is suing Highways England, claiming the smart motorway is directly responsible for his death.

The one-day course will cover the working methods that enable recovery operatives to carry out their roles safely. Key principles include:

  • Operators are NEVER expected to recover a vehicle in a live lane on a smart motorway.
  • Highways England can close lanes and set speed limits to support recovery operators.
  • Highways England can allocate traffic officers or call the emergency services to maintain safety.

‘Developed specifically for roadside rescue and recovery drivers’

car breakdown

Colin Stevenson, strategic partnership manager at Highways England, said: “The course has been developed specifically for roadside rescue and recovery drivers who use the motorway network and has been designed to aid practical, relevant training.

“Those completing the course will have a better understanding of the different types of smart motorways and how to formulate a recovery plan incorporating safe working practices when dealing with incidents on smart motorways.”

Chris Hoare, chairman of the Institute of Vehicle Recovery, added: “The Institute of Vehicle Recovery (IVR) has given its backing to the new smart motorways recovery vehicle awareness course, which gives all in the recovery industry a greater awareness of some of the additional considerations when working on a smart motorway.

“IVR’s previous collaborations with HE and other agencies produced the Life on the Edge 7 film and the SURVIVE Safety Rules, both of which are incorporated in the course. This collaborative approach of sharing best practice to deliver clear consistent messages, raises standards and ultimately provides a safer working environment for those operating in the vehicle recovery sector.”

Anyone wishing to enrol on the course should email Highways England.

‘Supercabs’ help to cut motorway collisions by a third

HGV Supercab

A week of action to improve road safety on the M1 helped to reduce collisions by almost a third, thanks in part to the deployment of ‘supercabs’.

The three custom-built Mercedes-Benz Actros trucks – also known as HGV supercabs – were acquired by Highways England in 2018 to help police catch people committing offences behind the wheel.

Thanks to the high vantage point, officers can look down on car and van drivers to catch people texting, using a smartphone or not wearing a seatbelt. The officers are also well placed to look across to other lorry drivers who are driving without due care and attention.

All three supercabs were used during the M1 safety week in May, during which time the number of collisions fell from 90 the previous week to 64. This is the fourth lowest number of collisions in 2019 and the second lowest outside school holidays.

The supercabs were used to catch a total of 200 dangerous drivers committing an offence, with each one stopped by a police officer. Hundreds of other motorists were given safety tips at motorway services.

Offences ranged from using a hand-held mobile phone at the wheel, not wearing a seatbelt and careless driving.

Little changes can make a big difference

HGV supercab police truck

Richard Leonard, head of road safety at Highways England, said: “We’ve been really impressed with the results of our week of action on the M1 which shows how making little changes to the way you drive can make a big difference to safety on our motorways.

“Our HGV supercabs helped the police identify almost 200 dangerous drivers who could have caused collisions if they hadn’t been pulled over, and our safety tips at motorway services and in the media also helped to make the M1 safer for everyone.

“As part of our current motorway driving campaign, we’re encouraging drivers to remember the basics of motorway driving to help keep us all moving so that the number of accidents continue to fall in the weeks and months ahead.”

PC Dave Lee from the safer roads team at Northamptonshire Police expressed his irritation at the number of drivers stopped during the safety week. “It’s always disappointing to catch drivers breaking the law.

“However, with a high number of motorists observed throughout the operation, these figures show it’s a small minority who continue to commit these types of offences.”

The supercabs are fitted with flashing lights for use in an emergency and have derestricted speed limiters to allow them to travel at higher speeds. Six police forces used them during the M1 safety week.

Earlier this year, Highways England released a video of a lorry driver making a credit card payment behind the wheel. In a separate video, Northamptonshire Police said they used a supercab to record a driver watching television, while another was filmed trying to cook their dinner.

‘No plans’ for smart M5 motorway in Somerset

No plans for smart M5 motorway

Highways England says it has “no current plans” to turn the M5 into a smart motorway in Somerset.

The section between Junction 25 at Taunton and Junction 15 for the M4 motorway is a notorious traffic blackspot, especially during the summer. 

A smart motorway is a technology-enabled section of motorway that uses traffic management methods to control the flow of traffic and reduce congestion.

In some cases, the hard shoulder is used as a ‘live’ running lane to increase capacity, along with variable speed restrictions to maintain a smooth flow of traffic.

Previously, Sedgemoor District Council said it would phase in smart technology to cut congestion and increase capacity at peak times.

‘Address existing and future congestion’

Traffic on M5 motorway

The Sedgemoor Transport Strategy document outlined the council’s plans for the road network until the year 2050, including “improvements to address existing and future congestion and resilience issues along the M5 motorway”.

“The Council will also promote smart motorways proposals on the M5 which would use digital technology to better monitor traffic levels and implement hard shoulder running, variable speed limits, or even close lanes remotely via gantry signage if accidents have occurred.”

“The District will be seeking full implementation of smart motorway infrastructure along the M5 corridor,” it said.

But Highways England has ruled it out, which could be bad news for local residents and the thousands of holidaymakers who use the M5 every summer.

‘No current plans’

M5 motorway sign

Rebecca Edmond, head of south west planning and development for Highways England, said: “There are no current plans to introduce a smart motorway to the Sedgemoor section of the M5.

“We are, though, finalising designs to bring more technological benefits to drivers between Junction 23 (Bridgwater) and Junction 25 (Taunton), a part of the motorway which currently suffers from delays.”

Highways England is installing a driver information and queue protection scheme between Junctions 17 and 18, and plans to introduce a similar scheme between Junctions 23 and 25 later this year.

“The scheme will give our South West Regional Operations Centre greater visibility of this area of the network,” added Edmond, “and it means we’ll be able to better detect incidents and then let drivers know so they can make informed choices about their journeys.”

Last week, Highways England announced that it will remove 480 miles of roadworks over the August bank holiday weekend.