Highways England announces £2.2bn plan to improve the south’s motorways and get traffic moving

Congestion on the M27
Congestion on the M27
The countryside surrounding Harting Down in the South Downs National Park, in West Sussex.

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A £2.2bn scheme to improve the south’s motorways and A roads was unveiled today.

Highways England met suppliers in Guildford to set out how £2.2bn of government investment to improve the capacity and condition of roads in the south east will be delivered.

The investment will see improvements and repairs along a series of motorways and A roads between now and 2021.

Officials say it will give road users ‘simpler, faster and more reliable journeys’ and will boost the area’s economy and help to bring the country closer together.

Major upgrades that will begin in the south east over the next five years include:

- Enhancing capacity on the M3 between Winchester and Southampton

- Enhancing capacity on the M27 between Southampton and Fareham

- Upgrading the M20 near Maidstone to a smart motorway

- Upgrading the M4 to a smart motorway between Reading and the M25

- Tackling congestion on the A21 between Tonbridge and Pembury

- Upgrading the A27 in Sussex

- Improving junctions on the A2 near Bean and Ebbslfeet

- Improving the A34 between the M4 and M40

- Increasing capacity on the M2 between Sittingbourne and Maidstone

- Improving junctions on the M3 near Winchester

- Improving the M27 and M271 near Southampton

- Tackling delays on the A31 near Ringwood in Hampshire

- Improving access to the A12 and A3 from the M25

- Upgrading the M25 to the latest generation of smart motorway, with five lanes between the M40 and Chertsey

- Developing plans to reduce congestion on the A3 near Guildford

- Developing plans for an additional Lower Thames Crossing

Highways England has said that the M27, which runs from Portsmouth to the New Forest, is part of its ‘smart’ motorway project.

The hard shoulder will be converted to a traffic lane and signs will tell drivers what speed to drive at, if lanes are blocked or closed and about incidents ahead.

The plans unveiled today will see 120 miles of extra lanes coming to the region.

Maintaining the existing network is also top priority, with £200m being invested in maintenance this year alone.

More than 18,716 metres of safety barrier and fencing will be replaced or maintained along with nearly 7070 road lights.

Ninety-one (out of 171) road signs will be replaced.

And Highways England says it will keep a relentless focus on safety, aiming for a 40 per cent reduction in road casualties by 2020.

Simon Jones, south east regional director, told The News the aim was to help reduce the south’s congestion and traffic jams.

He said: ‘We are trying to make sure that everybody’s journeys are quicker, safer and more reliable.’

He added that hold-ups were not only caused by congestion and the plan was to make sure incidents were cleared more quickly to get the traffic moving.

Roads Minister Andrew Jones said: ‘Roads are key to our nation’s prosperity. For too long they have suffered from under-investment.

‘The government has a long-term plan to secure the country’s economic future. This £2.2 billion investment in the region’s roads will directly benefit hardworking families across the South East.

Mr Jones added: ‘It’s vital that we continue to improve the existing road network as well, which is why we’re investing over £200 million this year alone in resurfacing, improving technology and safety measures and other maintenance projects.

‘The region’s motorways and dual carriageways are vital for our economy and this huge investment will ensure they remain fit for purpose for many years to come.’