MOTORWAY-style variable speed limits could be introduced on the A127 to ease congestion at busy times and allow motorists to drive at 70mph at night.

Essex County Council could change speed limits to ease crippling congestion and ensure the road does not come to a complete standstill whenever there is a crash.

Variable speed limits, used on motorways during crashes and at times of congestion to slow down traffic on approach, could be a method to better manage trafficflow.

The authority said bringing in the scheme, between the M25 and Fairglen Interchange, would also provide an opportunity to “release traffic speeds to 70mph during periods of low flow”.

The move could mean frustrated drivers travelling at night with very little traffic on the road would be able to put their foot down on the carriageway’s current 50mph zones.

Lorry driver Bill Hickey, who works at the TNT courier firm, in Basildon, said: “Driving at 70mph would be a godsend.

“But I don’t think we’d ever get to see it used much, or indeed the variable limit at peak times.

“When the road is congested its already tail to tail so in effect it already has a speed restriction on it.”

Earlier this year, County Hall’s director of commissioning for transport, Paul Bird, admitted to the Echo the planned £25million investment in the road, including major junction upgrades at Kent Elms, Nevendon, and the Fairglen Interchange, is only a short-term fix.

It is estimated simply maintaining the road, first built in the Twenties, will cost £60million.

The authority said bringing in the variable speed limit, which would cost £4.7million, could help with congestion.

The money would be spent on installing signs on every entry point to the dual carriageway to tell people what the current speed limit is.

Independent councillor Martin Terry, who is responsible for transport at Southend Council, said: “I have some sympathywith people driving down the 50mph zones at 3am when there is nobody in sight.

“I would be interested in seeing whether this can be taken forward.

“They have proved successful elsewhere in terms of motorway control and highway safety, and reducing congestion.

“Currently, you come up an entry ramp to the road and then you’re immediately in stationary traffic, so a bit of warning would be ideal.”

In its strategy for the A127, the county councillor responsible for highways, Rodney Bass, said: “The use of variable speed limits, to both reduce collisions and improve reliability, would need to be studied carefully to avoid concerns that a reduction in speed is detrimental to businesses, in the form of longer journey times.

“Speed limits could then be adjusted to suit traffic flows and for any incidents that may occur.

This also has the added benefit of releasing traffic speeds to 70mph during periods of low flow.”


A thing of the past? A127 tailbacks

COUNTY Hall bosses believe variable speeds could help make one of Essex’s most congested roads move much more smoothly.

Business leaders and motorists have given the idea of introducing variable speed limits on the A127 a cautious welcome.

Consultants drafted in by Essex County Council looked into the 380 crashes on the A127 between October 2010 and September 2013 that resulted in injury, and their report concludes that it cost the economy some £4million per year because of traffic delays.

With studies estimating that over the next 60 years, 43,567 new jobs could be created in south Essex, officials at County Hall say keeping the A127 moving as much as possible is a key aim.

Denise Rossiter, chief executive of the Essex Chambers of Commerce, said: “I think the opportunity to make the road faster is fantastic for the business community.

“But if they did increase speed limits at certain points, drivers may get confused and that could lead to safety problems.

It works well at the moment.

“With caution, we would support working with the council on this, but there would need to be a wide-ranging consultation.”

Last year, County Hall bid for £76million worth of cash from the Government, but was only granted a third of it for some upgrades of junctions.

Around £15million is being spent on a new link road from the Fairglen Interchange to the A130 towards Wickford, but work will not start until 2019.

County Hall bosses say they would ultimately like the road upgraded to three lanes either side, but admit that is unlikely because of the massive cost involved, as well as the practicalities of it in some places.


Martin Terry by a A127 speed camera

Average speed cameras to be installed to the M25?

Average speed cameras could be introduced on the entire length of the A127 from the M25, it has been revealed.

Since 2009, average speed cameras have been in place between the Southend borough boundary and the Fortune of War roundabout, in Laindon.

The average speed cameras, which measure the time a car takes to cover a distance between two points, caught out more than 3,000 drivers in 2014.

The proposal to add more cameras to promote safety is “fully costed”, according to Essex County Council.

In Essex County Council’s strategy for the A127, Rodney Bass, county councillor responsible for transport, said: “There is an opportunity to improve the safety camera coverage along the A127 as there are some gaps.

“Scheme costs have been calculated to provide additional safety cameras to ensure comprehensive coverage along the entire length.”

Adding to the eight sets of average speed cameras has been welcomed by a driving instructor.

Tariq Musaji, who runs Wickford-based Farrah Driving Training, said: “Speed cameras are a good deterrent, as casualty improvement and road safety as an effect on the economy through less delays, and the effect on the economy through less delays, and the NHS through less injuries.

“But the speed limit is just a target as well as a limit. You need to have common sense.

“That means no tailgating, following speed limits, and no lane jumping. I think the cameras have worked well on the A127.

NHS through less injuries.

“But the speed limit is just a target as well as a limit. You need to have common sense.

“That means no tailgating, following speed limits, and no lane jumping. I think the cameras have worked well on the road.”