The final phase of a £205 million upgrade to improve journey times and reduce congestion on a 20-mile section of the M1 spanning the East Midlands and South Yorkshire has gone live.
The Highways England scheme between junction 28 (Mansfield) and junction 31 (Worksop) is the first smart motorway in the East Midlands and South Yorkshire, where the hard shoulder has been permanently converted to an extra lane.
Variable speed limits will also be used to keep vehicles moving, tackling the stop-start conditions many drivers have experienced in the past.
It is being delivered as part of a £15 billion government investment in motorways and major A roads by 2021.
Roads minister Andrew Jones said: “The completion of the smart motorway on this section of the M1 will make a real difference to people travelling between Mansfield, Chesterfield and Worksop, delivering better and smoother journeys, helping businesses and boosting the local economy.
“This is all part of our plans to build a road network that is fit for the future, with a record £15 billion going into improving our roads, reducing congestion and keeping Britain moving.”
Contractors for Highways England have worked 1.75 million combined hours to complete the scheme, which aims to improve journeys for more than 95,000 drivers a day using this stretch.
A similar scheme on the M25 which opened just over a year ago has seen the busiest journey times being halved and the number of collisions reduced by a fifth.
Highways England senior programme manager Andy Kirk said: “The new smart motorway will tackle congestion and improve journey times for the thousands of drivers who use it every day.
“The hard shoulder has been permanently converted to an extra lane to significantly increase capacity, and we’ll keep vehicles moving using variable speed limits.”
CCTV will be used 24 hours a day to enable staff in Highways England’s regional control centres near Nottingham and Wakefield to respond quickly to incidents, closing lanes using red ‘X’s on overhead signs if necessary.
Drivers using the upgraded stretch of the M1 will also be able to use emergency refuge areas if they break down.