Press release

Smarter motorway for West Yorkshire

Drivers to benefit from reduced congestion and improved journey times.

Drivers on the M1 near Wakefield will benefit from reduced congestion and improved journey times after the final phase of a new £120 million smart motorway went live today (Monday 1 February).

The Highways England scheme along a 7-mile stretch of motorway between junction 39 (Denby Dale) and junction 42 (Lofthouse Interchange) is the first all lane running motorway in the North, where the hard shoulder has been permanently converted to an extra lane.

The smart motorway uses the latest technology to monitor traffic levels and variable speed limits on overhead electronic signs keep vehicles moving, improving the reliability of journeys. The first phase of the scheme was opened in December between junctions 39 and 41 (Morley).

Highways England senior project manager Sandie Forte-Gill said:

We are delighted that the last stretch between Morley and Leeds has opened today, which will tackle congestion and improve journey times for drivers.

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. We’ll use CCTV cameras to monitor the motorway so we can react quickly to incidents.

We would like to thank drivers for their patience over the last two years while we carried out the work. Contractors for Highways England have worked 2,191,000 hours over the last two years to complete the scheme. The hard shoulder has been permanently converted into an extra lane, providing capacity for an average of 37,000 more vehicles each day.

Infrared CCTV will also be used 24 hours a day to enable staff in the regional control centre near Wakefield to respond quickly to incidents, closing lanes using red ‘X’s on overhead signs if necessary. Drivers will also be able to use emergency refuge areas if they break down.

The smart motorway between junctions 39 and 42 includes:

  • 7 miles of reinforced concrete barriers in the central reservation
  • 7 miles of resurfacing the equivalent to 46 football pitches
  • 10 overhead gantries
  • 38 electronic signs
  • 6,172 reflective road studs

Work to convert the M1 to a smart motorway between junctions 39 and 42 began in November 2013. Temporary narrow lanes and a 50mph speed limit have been in place to keep three lanes open to traffic in each direction and to create a safe working environment.

The M62 between junction 25 (Brighouse) and junction 30 (Wakefield) was the first smart motorway in Yorkshire to go live back in 2013. The hard shoulder is used as an extra lane during peak times whereas it has been permanently converted to an extra lane on the new M1 scheme.

General enquiries

Members of the public should contact the Highways England customer contact centre on 0300 123 5000.

Media enquiries

Journalists should contact the Highways England press office on 0844 693 1448 and use the menu to speak to the most appropriate press officer.