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Road User Voice – July 2016 – Expressways or motorways?

06 July 2016

The future is (almost here) – but is it the right one for road users?

‘Expressways’ are a new type of strategic road, set to sit alongside so-called ‘smart’ motorways, other motorways, and ordinary ‘A’ roads.

Transport Focus supports efforts to improve the experience of road users. However we are keen that it is done with road users’ needs and priorities at the very heart.

Expressways are set to be a key part of the Strategic Road Network in years to come – transforming the most important ‘A’ roads on a consistent basis to make up for the piecemeal upgrading that has been the approach for decades.

New stretches of the A556 under construction in Cheshire, and of the A14 about to start work in Cambridgeshire, are expected to set the standard.

Before the programme rolls out further, Transport Focus is keen to ensure that user views are at the heart of how expressways develop.

We are part of the design panel and will use that role to help guide Highways England as it develops the specification.

We have already highlighted the need to learn lessons from experiences with emergency refuge areas on ‘smart’ motorways.

We are also keen to ensure the spacing and standard of service areas meets drivers’ needs.  And of course it is important that expressways have provision alongside and across them for cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders, and for bus services that will run on them.

But this is also a good time to take a pause for thought.

If expressways are to be as well-designed as motorways, and offer users the same standard of journey, then why should they be called something different?  What is the added value in creating a new category of road? We have already seen how difficult it has been to build user understanding of a ‘smart’ motorway.

It’s clear there needs to be a debate on what extra expressways will bring; we will be playing an active role in this, and will report further on how it progresses.

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