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This piece was originally written in 2019 and since then there have been a number of updates, both the road network in the Midlands and also to the country’s stance on smart motorways. In January 2022, the UK Government paused the expansion of smart motorways across the country indefinitely and Rishi Sunak has since vowed to ban them entirely.

You can see Highways England most up to date delivery plan for road improvements here: Delivery Plan 2023-2024.

Below we have noted for each of the works started/planned as to their current status now.

Improving our road networks is an ongoing project being undertaken by Highways England, with full details available online.

Works Started

  • Smart Motorway works on the M1 junctions 13-19, started 2015-16, due for completion 2021-22 at an estimated cost of £373 million. 2023 update: Smart motorway works were completed on a 23 mile stretch from J13 to J16 in March 2023.
  • Smart Motorway works on the M1 junctions 23a-24, started 2016-17, due for completion 2019 at an estimated cost of £120 million.
  • Smart Motorway works on the M1 junctions 24-25, started 2016-17, due for completion Q3 2018-19 at an estimated cost of £120 million. 2023 update: The stretch between Junctions 23a-J25 is now a smart motorway. There are further plans through 2023 to create a further 12 emergency areas between J32-J35a.
  • Smart Motorway works on the M6 junctions 2-4, started 2017-18, due for completion 2019-20 at an estimated cost of between £155-234 million
  • Smart Motorway works on the M6 junctions 13-15, started 2017-18, due for completion 2021-22 at an estimated cost of £232.3 – £334.4 million. 2023 update: all upgrades planned for the M6 to create stretches of smart motorway were completed. As it stands, the M6 has multiple stretches of smart motorway including J2-J4, J11a-J13, J13 – J15, J16-J19as “all lane running”, J4-J5, J5-J8 and J8-J10a as “Dynamic hard shoulder” and J10a-11a as “controlled motorway”. Plans to work on J21a-J26 were scrapped in early 2023.
  • M5 junctions 6 junction upgrades started 2018, due for completion Q1 2019. Junctions 5 and 7 have already had works completed. Work to J6 has included new traffic lights, road surfacing, markings, signs and street lighting. 2023 update: works to the M5 completed in 2019 as planned.
  • A52 Nottingham work to various junctions, started 2019, no end date as yet. The junctions targeted include Nottingham Knight, Wheatcroft, Silverdale, Bingham, Stragglethorpe and Gamston. Work to be carried out will look to reduce delays and congestion, improve pedestrian and cycle routes and make the road safer in all areas. 2023 update: works that started in 2019 on the A52 have not yet completed, with the final part due to start in September 2024. However, these works are not classed as creation of smart motorway infrastructure; these works are to design and construct two junctions.
  • A50 Uttoxeter (Project A) started 2015-16, originally due for completion Q4 2018 but now pushed back to Q1 2019 at an estimated cost of £40 million.

This scheme is being delivered in a phased approach, with the first phase (Project A) currently under construction. Project A when complete will see a new grade separated junction and bridge at the junction with the A522 and provide local access to Uttoxeter as well as the factories to the north of the A50 and the proposed housing and Business Park to the south.

Project B, which will see further developments to road safety and the transport links for those who travel in the Uttoxeter area as well as between the East and West Midlands, will take place once the RIS2 prioritisation process has been completed. 2023 update: Project A completed in the end in December 2018. There are now new plans to bulldoze two roundabouts on the A50, which had been put forward previously as “Project B” and shelved. These roundabouts are notorious for causing delays each day.

Works Planned

  • A38 Derby junctions due to start 2020-21 after the scheme was paused at the request of the Department for Transport, further delaying the start date from 2019. This has pushed back the completion date to 2045-25. This project will include work to the junctions of Kingsway, Markeaton and Little Eaton to relieve congestion. The estimated cost lies between £200-£250 million. 2023 update: Work has not yet commenced but still planned; in August 2023 the A38 Derby Junctions Development Consent Order was reviewed and re-approved by the Secretary of State for Transport. Final approval is not yet in place.
  • A500 Etruria widening. This will see the A500 widen from 2 to 3 lanes between Porthill and Wolstanton and is planned to start Spring 2019. No completion or budget dates have been released as yet. 2023 update: The A500 Etruria widening scheme started in August 2019 and completed in July 2020, 3 months earlier than estimated.
  • M6 junction 10 improvement, due to start 2019/20. This scheme is designed to reduce congestion, improve motorway access and avoid future maintenance costs by replacing the existing bridges; the estimated cost is set at £64.5 million. 2023 update: this started in 2020 and has not yet been completed due to delays. It is estimated to complete in spring 2024.
  • A5 Dodwells to Longshoot widening from single to dual carriageway, due to start 2020-21 at at estimated cost of £20-25 million. A shared foot/cycle way will also be built as part of this work. 2023 update: work plans were scrapped in 2021 due to the proposed A5 to Hinckley to Tamworth scheme.
  • M42 junction 6. This work aims to increase the capacity of the M42 at J6 and improve access for Birmingham Airport and HS2 Birmingham Interchange. The estimated start date has been set for 2019-20 at a cost of £282 million. 2023 update: construction started in 2021 and is due to complete in 2025.
  • A45/A6 Chowns Mill junction improvement, due to start 2019-20 at a cost of £21 million. Chowns Mill is well known for congestion and this work aims to relieve this, as well as improve safety and provide better pedestrian facilities. 2023 update: works completed ahead of schedule for Chowns Mill.
  • A5 Towcester relief road. This has long been anticipated by Towcester residents and Highways England have pencilled in work to start 2019/20, although no commitments have been made as to when this may be open for traffic. 2023 update: works to this relief road, aka Towcester Bypass, are ongoing, although a date of 2024 has been earmarked for the road to be fully open.

Planned Works with No Start Date

  • M54 to M6/M6 toll – Changes to the scheme being progressed so no start date as yet. 2023 update: Nothing new to report but in July 2023 the National Highways website was updated to say they are still committed to building the link road.
  • A14 junction 10a – This is a proposed new junction that would see road users able to leave the A14 between J10-11 to access the proposed East Kettering development. However, the scheme has been assessed as providing low value for money so no start date has been committed at this time. 2023 update: no news to report; funding for this was debated in 2022 but nothing concrete in place.

Already Completed & Open to Traffic

  • Smart Motorway work on M1 junctions 28-31
  • Widening of the A453 to create dual carriageway between Mill Hill – M1 J24 and 4 lanes from the Farnborough Road junction in Clifton and Mill Hill
  • Widening of A14 at Kettering to make 3 lanes J7-9 (Glebe Farm – Wicksteed Park)
  • Improvements to M1 J19 (complete redesign and rebuild of intersection for M1/M6 and A14)
  • A45-A46 Tollbar end dual carriageway underpass link
  • Smart Motorway work on M6 junctions 10a-13
  • Smart Motorway work on M5 junctions 4a-6 (Bromsgrove – Worcester)
  • Widening interchange on A43 at Abthorpe junction

With so many commitments being made to work both already in progress and due to start, will we see our local road network improving or will these planned works be merely a drop in the ocean of frustrations that many drivers face during their commute or daily driving on the roads? Let us know what you think!