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Roads to Nowhere

The smart response to M4 widening proposals

Sian Berry's picture
Incident exercise, photo by Highways England on flickr

Motorway widening from London to Reading is being planned and we need your voice to object to these dangerous and polluting proposals now.

You currently have until midnight on Friday 3 July to register your concerns about Highways England’s £900 million proposals to turn a large part of the M4 into a ‘Smart Motorway'.

Making a motorway 'smart' does not mean giving it a lick of paint, or doing a better job at clearing up rubbish, it means introducing traffic management systems to make better use of the existing capacity by smoothing vehicle speeds.  If that was all it was about, it wouldn’t be too bad, and is how the previous 'Managed Motorways' worked.

All this new technology is the end of the smart bit, however, and the rest of the proposal is decidedly stupid:

  • The key difference with 'Smart Motorways' is that they also involve widening the road. Highways England wants to permanently increase capacity of the M4 by taking over the hard shoulder and using it as another lane for traffic.
  • Therefore, not only are these plans going to increase traffic, they will make air pollution worse across a large area of west London and Berkshire where it is already above legal limits.  (See our consultation response for more detail on this)
  • At a stroke these plans will undermine safety, as the loss of the hard shoulder as a place to stop in an emergency cannot be replaced by putting small refuges every 2.5km.  The lack of hard shoulder is shown by Highways England's own reports to make roads more dangerous for anyone who is unlucky enough to break down on it, and for any rescue services trying to get people moving again. The police have already objected to the scheme
  • The extra lanes of traffic will also increase carbon emissions. In total, the plans would put an extra four million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.

If you think this scheme sounds like a bad idea, please register your objection now.

It's really easy to do; just head to the Government's consultation page to respond, and if you're unsure about any details, you can read our guide to registering an objection here. For more information, guidance on what to say and a link to the Planning Inspectorate registration form, visit Reading Friends of the Earth’s website or see the leaflet below.

The project is being considered for planning permission as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, which means that anyone, wherever they live, can register their objections - not just people in the local area.

M4 leaflet page 1M4 leaflet page 2