The UK has opened its first through-junction running scheme on the M42 near Solihull, allowing motorists to drive along the motorway’s hard shoulder between junction slip roads.

The scheme is aimed at maximising the benefits of the hard shoulder on the M42 by further increasing motorway capacity at busy times, the Highways Agency said.

The system allows road users travelling south on the M42 to make use of a continuous four-lane section of motorway from J6 southbound to J4 and no longer require them to leave the hard shoulder when approaching Junction 5.

Work on the £3m scheme included re-aligning the existing southbound hard shoulder through Junction 5 and installing electronic message signs to direct traffic and give information to road users.

Transport Minister Chris Mole said through-junction running would increase capacity, reduce congestion and improve journey time reliability and safety on motorways.

“Hard shoulder running has already made journeys on the M42 near Birmingham safer and more reliable. To maximise these benefits and further increase capacity, the Highways Agency is now making more of the hard shoulder available to traffic at busy times,” Mole said.