New £120m M1 smart motorway has gone live

1 Feb 2016....The launch of the final phase of the new smart motorway,the M1 between junc 39 and junc 42, near Wakefield.Operations Manager Rob Beckitt near junc 39.  Picture Scott Merrylees

1 Feb 2016....The launch of the final phase of the new smart motorway,the M1 between junc 39 and junc 42, near Wakefield.Operations Manager Rob Beckitt near junc 39. Picture Scott Merrylees

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A £120m motorway upgrade which aims to speed up journeys and improve safety along a “congestion hotspot” on a stretch of the M1 has been completed.

Construction work organised by Highways England started in 2013 and more than 300 people were involved in upgrading the seven-mile stretch of motorway.

The first section, a five-lane stretch between Morley and Lofthouse, opened in December.

And the final phase of the Smart Motorway, from junction 39 at Denby Dale to junction 42 at Lofthouse, went live on Monday.

Sandie Forte-Gill, Highways England senior project manager, said: “This was really needed, it was one of the hotspots in the region in terms of congestion.

“The road had really deteriorated quite a lot over the last few years in terms of queues so this will go a long way to improving that.”

1 Feb 2016....The launch of the final phase of the new smart motorway,the M1 between junc 39 and junc 42, near Wakefield. Picture Scott Merrylees

1 Feb 2016....The launch of the final phase of the new smart motorway,the M1 between junc 39 and junc 42, near Wakefield. Picture Scott Merrylees

The upgrade aims to reduce the risk of accidents happening on the road by up to 15 per cent and reduce journey times by a third.

Four lanes are now open across the stretch of motorway, which is used by more than 110,000 vehicles daily, after the hard shoulder was converted into an extra lane.

Latest technology will monitor traffic levels, provide information to drivers and ease congestion by using variable speed limits on overhead message signs.

Infrared CCTV, monitored by staff at Highways England’s regional control centre in Durkar, will be used 24 hours-a-day to respond quickly to incidents.

1 Feb 2016....The launch of the final phase of the new smart motorway,the M1 between junc 39 and junc 42, near Wakefield. 'Senior Project Manager Sandie Forte-Gill. Picture Scott Merrylees

1 Feb 2016....The launch of the final phase of the new smart motorway,the M1 between junc 39 and junc 42, near Wakefield. 'Senior Project Manager Sandie Forte-Gill. Picture Scott Merrylees

Lanes will be closed using a red ‘X’ system on overhead signs when necessary.

The converted extra lane will also increase capacity between junctions 39 and 42.

Mrs Forte-Gill added: “It’s been great working on the project. It’s difficult for people who are working on the road, literally alongside traffic that is moving and even with speed limits at night it doesn’t feel like it’s going any slower.

“I’m incredibly proud of the team and we are really pleased about how we have been able to keep roads open during the construction.

“We would like to thank drivers for their patience over the last two years while we carried out the work.”

Contractors for Highways England installed 6,172 road studs, put in nearly seven miles of reinforced concrete barriers in the central reservation and resurfaced the same length on both carriageways.

They also installed 10 overhead gantries with 38 electronic signs as part of the scheme.

Emergency refuge areas will be available for motorists if they break down.

Work between junctions 39 and 42 on the M1 began in November 2013 and temporary narrow lanes and a 50mph speed limit have been in place during construction.