SAFETY concerns have been raised over plans to implement a smart motorway scheme on the M27.
Highways England is set to begin the major £244m project to turn the motorway’s hard shoulder into an extra lane from next March.
The three-year project will see 15 miles of hard shoulder between Junction 4 and Junction 11 converted but now concerns have been raised by the AA over the proposals.
Under the plans for the route – which would be known as an ‘all-lane running’ smart motorway – lay-bys called ‘emergency refuge areas’ would be introduced.
These would be stationed 2km apart from each other and the organisation wants that distance reduced and the number of them doubled.
Jack Cousens, spokesman for the AA said: ‘We have serious concerns about the all-lane running smart motorway scheme.
‘The problem with the lay-bys is they are too far apart at 2km and we would prefer them at 1km to a kilometre and a half apart.
‘In the past, people have been using these lay-bys for stopping and not realising they are for emergencies.
‘Highways England has put in more signage and covered them in orange paint but we do not believe a lick of paint is enough.
‘We want twice the number of emergency stops.’
Stops along the recently-completed smart motorway scheme along the northern part of the M3 were coloured orange in order to make them more prominent to drivers.
In regards to the M27 project, the government body says the works will be complete by March 2021 with the overall aim to reduce congestion at peak times and improve journey time reliability.
Designs for the scheme are currently being ironed out ahead of construction work starting in just seven months.
Councillor Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council, said the project would bring significant benefits for residents across the borough.
He said: ‘This will be a critical improvement for the M27.
‘I have been looking at the plans for a while now and I am delighted that Highways England are now moving the project forward.
‘It will be truly worthwhile for regular drivers on the motorway and be a big boost for those driving from Fareham.’
Fareham MP Suella Fernandes has previously said about the project: ‘This is great news for many people in Fareham who use the M27 on a daily basis.
‘Cutting congestion is a big priority for people in Fareham, particularly local businesses who rely upon our motorways.
‘The smart motorway will support growth not just in Fareham but also in the region and will mean more efficient, reliable and safer journeys.’
In addition to converting the hard shoulder, the project will involve the installation of new CCTV cameras and electronic information signs and signals on gantries, the aforementioned emergency refuge areas and the hardening of the central reserve and installation.
Once the comprehensive design work for the scheme and environmental assessments are completed, Highways England plans to launch a series of public exhibition events across the region later this year to provide more information about the scheme to residents and businesses.