Following hard on the heels of a new Wokingham Station, the Highways Agency visited us last week to start their consultation on an improved M4. I went along to talk to them. I wanted to stress the need to take more action to cut down the motorway noise which afflicts people living in Winnersh, Earley and the other settlements near to the motorway.
The government’s scheme is to convert the current hard shoulder from Junction 3 to Junction 12 into an additional traffic lane. Pull in areas will be created along the length of the motorway to allow any vehicle in distress to pull off the highway. If a car cannot even make it to the next pull in this will be picked up by the motorway controllers and that lane will be closed with appropriate warnings and speed restrictions. This system is currently operating successfully elsewhere on motorways that have already been converted to this “smart motorway” model.
The new motorway will have the facility for lower speed limits to be introduced if this would help the smooth running of traffic on a very congested road, or if there is a hazard. There will have to be new bridges along the length of the expanded motorway to cope with the extra lane.
I have made two proposals to the Highways Agency to help with the noise problem. The first is that when they resurface the road they should use a noise reducing compound. The second is they should install more barriers near to housing to baffle the sound. The Agency promised to investigate this need and report on it as part of their response to consultation.
As I said I thought this was widely wanted, it would be a good idea if more people would make this point during the consultation or would write in to reinforce it. The address of the Agency is The Highways Agency, The Cube, 199 Wharfside Streeet, Birmingham B1 1RN. The email for this consultation is M4J3to12SmartMotorways@highways.gsi.gov.uk.
I also urged them to minimise inconvenience to existing road users when doing the replacement bridges. They said they would investigate building a new bridge alongside the old one, so it can continue in use. They also said they would consider limiting off peak motorway closures to drop new bridges in by seeking to do more than one at a time.