PLANS for a £700m widening of the M4 between Theale and London have been given the go-ahead despite warnings that lives will be put at risk.
Around 32 miles of the road between junction 3 at Hayes and junction 12 at Theale will be widened to four lanes in each direction by converting the hard shoulder to a running lane and installing new technology.
Eleven overbridges will also be replaced with larger span structures and six underbridges widened to accommodate the four lanes as part of the plan to turn it into a ‘smart motorway’.
Speed limits will be displayed to drivers on electronic road signs, while the scheme will also include emergency refuge areas with telephones.
The Highways Agency says it would provide “real benefits to drivers and the economy”, but the RAC and the AA fear that the lack of a hard shoulder could leave motorists in a vulnerable position in the event of a breakdown.
And this week serious injury experts Irwin Mitchell warned that lives could be at risk.
Similar schemes already operate on stretches of the M25, M1, M42 and M6.
However, in June, MPs criticised the plans, recommending they are halted before it can be proven the plans are safe. And recently, campaigners held a protest againt the proposals.
Last week Alan Macro (Lib Dem, Theale) was also critical of the plans saying: “My main concern is on safety.
“If you break down, you’re relying on someone watching cctv and other people following the instructions. I think there could be a terrible accident at some point.”
For the full story pick up a copy of this week's Newbury Weekly News, out on Thursday.