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Hard Shoulder – Hard Choice?

When learning to drive, one of the rules of the road you will likely already be aware of is that hard shoulders are for emergency use only.

However, under a new scheme, and in a bid to tackle congestion on some the introduction of “managed motorways” will see the hard shoulder used as an extra driving lane on sections of the M62, M4, M5, M6 and M25. 

The government has invested £1.4 billion in improving Britain’s roads and reducing journey times for motorists, but this proposal is certainly controversial.

Is this really the way to tackle the ever increasing problem of congestion?

No doubt all of us who have been interminably stuck on the M25 have looked longingly at the hard shoulder and entertained a brief fantasy of using it to get out of the jam and on to our destination, but basic common sense prevails.

After all, hard shoulders are a vital refuge in an emergency or a breakdown.  And what happens when the hard shoulders are gridlocked too?  Are we back to more and more road widening schemes?  Many opposed to the proposals believe they will do little to reduce congestion in the long-term and more investment in infrastructure and public transport is a better and more sustainable solution.

Others raise concerns about motoring safety on roads where the hard shoulder is being used as a driving lane.  What happens if you breakdown?  Being left with nowhere to go is not an option that appeals to many, and some find the prospect unsettling.

Neil Grieg of the Institute of Advanced Motorists is concerned by the reality of motorists who have mechanical issues being forced to drive up to a mile to find a refuge area – something that may not be possible in the case of a serious malfunction.

So is this the answer to Britain’s congestion issue?  Or merely a short term fix that may put lives at risk?  Only time will tell.



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