A technology driven approach

Managed motorwaysFlagship motorway scheme delivers increased safety and efficiency by controlling traffic flows more effectively

A key challenge for the Highways Agency is the management of England’s motorways to improve traffic flows and journey times and reduce congestion. In 2006 the Highways Agency piloted an Active Traffic Management scheme – now called Managed Motorway schemes – on the M42 between junctions 3a and 7.

This scheme was to become one of the most important benchmarks in the history of England’s motorways.

The M42 scheme is based on the need to keep traffic flowing. Using sensors on the carriageway, traffic speeds and volumes are monitored so that congestion can be accurately measured. As congestion levels rise, the Highways Agency Traffic Management System (HATMS) located within the West Midlands Regional Control Centre assesses the incoming sensor data and will control the speed of traffic along this managed motorway section by automatically setting mandatory (red-ring) speed limits that are displayed on the gantries above the carriageways. To ensure a high level of compliance, the variable speed limits are enforced, which in turn then enables the safety and journey time reliability benefits. This is achieved by using a Peek-developed speed enforcement system called HADECS  or Highways Agency Digital Enforcement Cameras System.

Behind the scenes, Peek also provided a Hard Shoulder Management (HSM) control system for the M42 pilot and developed the software for the operators so that, in times of congestion or in the wake of an accident, they can use it to open up the hard shoulder as an additional running lane. The software for this pilot was based on a similar application on the A38M where the number of running lanes in or out of the city of Birmingham can be adjusted between four and two lanes.

12 months after opening, a report found that there has been a 22 per cent improvement in the reliability of journey times on this stretch of the M42. Congestion has been reduced and, crucially, journeys on this stretch of motorway have been made safer. There has been a marked reduction in the number of accidents; results published in March 2011 in the Highways Agency’s three-year safety report into the M42 scheme show that accidents involving personal injury reduced by more than half (56 per cent), with zero fatalities.

The risk of secondary collisions are also reduced, through the provision of MIDAS/queue protection.

CCTV installed along the route allows the operator to monitor the M42 and verify any incident, or vehicle in an Emergency Refuge Area, and then respond appropriately and more quickly. The Managed Motorways system can also be used to manage traffic around an incident; once the signs and signals are set to alert drivers, they can be directed around the scene by the signing of a lane as being open or closed.

Major milestone
The success of the M42 scheme paved the way for the Managed Motorways system to be rolled-out onto other key sections of motorway, including sections around Birmingham – the ‘Birmingham Box’.

A major milestone was achieved on the Birmingham Box Managed Motorways (BBMM) project on 1 February 2011 when the Peek HATMS at the West Midlands Regional Control Centre was further upgraded to enable site commissioning of this new Hard Shoulder Running scheme on the M6, junctions 8 to 10A. The hard shoulder on the 2.4 mile stretch between the slip roads at J10 has also been converted into a full-time running lane in both directions, which is a first.

The Birmingham Box Managed Motorways Phases 1 & 2 (BBMM12) project (M6 between junctions 4 and 5, and M6 between junctions 8 and 10A) was successfully completed on schedule at the end of March 2011. The final phase of the project was the opening of hard shoulder running on a 6.7 mile section of the M6 between junctions 8 and 10A on 22 March.

On the same day a three-year safety report into the M42 scheme was published, with separate research from short-term monitoring also announced, which found that the road users believe that the stretches on the M40 and M6 (Birmingham Box) that are using hard shoulder running have improved.

Wider roll out
Work to extend Managed Motorways to Junctions 5 to 8 of the M6 near Birmingham is expected to start in 2012/13, subject to completion of statutory processes. In the next few years the Highways Agency is expected to start work on introducing Managed Motorways to other sections of motorway, including the M60, M62, M1 and the M25.

Peek is proud to be an integral part of a transport project such as this, delivering benefits to the travelling public. We are looking forward to making use of the skills and experience we have gained on BBMM12 in the wider roll-out of Managed Motorway schemes that are planned for start of works 2011-2015.

Peek is a proud member of the Association for Road Traffic Safety and Management (ARTSM). ARTSM is an informed and influential force in the Highways and Transportation area. The Association seeks to benefit Members through its representative role thus seeking to influence technological developments to improve standards in traffic engineering and operations.

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