Essex Road Operations, the government-funded organisation that is responsible for keeping traffic flowing on major roads in the county, has announced that a trial will begin on 1st May 2016 that will allow 4×4 vehicles to use the hard shoulder on the A127 and the A13 when there is heavy traffic on either road. According to the ‘forward-thinking’ group of highway experts, this decision will give a huge boost to the economy of Essex due to the number of small business owners and high-income individuals who own vehicles such as Land Rovers, Range Rovers, Audi Q5s and large Volvos. It is estimated that roughly 25% of all vehicles in South Essex would fall into this category, and therefore the project’s creator feels that opening up the hard shoulder for these ‘high priority road users’ is justified.
Marlon Overfinch, the Head of Circulation at Essex Road Operations, spoke to our Chief Reporter to explain more about the pilot project that has been pencilled in for an initial 3-month period from 1st May. He said: ‘We receive more than 750 complaints per week from users of the A127 and the A13 who are frustrated with heavy traffic levels that do not allow their 4×4 vehicles to drive to their full potential, and many of these people have businesses to run that are vital to our local economy. Also, it has to be remembered that these cars are often owned by both high-income individuals and their immediate family, and if these people can’t get to shopping centres, their kids’ dance classes and coffee mornings there is a real risk that they will take their disposable income and move elsewhere – this would be catastrophic on a number of levels. Therefore, using our new network of average speed cameras and electronic road signs that have been installed along the A127 and the A13, we will be able to display notices advising 4×4 drivers of when they will be permitted to drive along the hard shoulder. As a general rule, the feature will be activated whenever the average speed of vehicles falls below 25 mph.’
We asked Mr Overfinch if he thought that this was a fair use of the hard shoulder on both roads, especially for times when someone is using this area in the event of an emergency. He said: ‘We have spent the last six months conducting surveys in Leigh On Sea and Thorpe Bay before approving this project, and this showed us that 83% of all motorists believe that the owner of a broken down vehicle on the hard shoulder should be obliged to move out of the way if a 4×4 car is trying to get past due to heavy traffic. Therefore, this whole process has been carried out in a fair and democratic way, and as an added bonus we also feel that drivers of regular vehicles will be inspired to better their own lives when they see a 4×4 moving freely on the hard shoulder – there really is no better way to give people the inspirational message that you don’t need to live on a farm or a really big hill to need a £60,000 ‘tank’ that confirms your position in life as someone who has really made it.’
We spoke to Jennifer Upanusio, a hard-working mum of three and quinoa-based cosmetics entrepreneur from Hadleigh. She said: ‘My husband works irregular hours as an arms trader and chemical weapons ambassador in London, and therefore it is up to me and our au pair team to ensure that the children get to school and karate club on time every week. How am I supposed to juggle all of this if I am stuck in traffic on the A127 going into Southend because everyone has decided to go to bloody Matalan or Primark on the same day? I know that some people will be upset by this pilot scheme, but they should also remember that 4×4 ownership has never been more affordable. I manage to maintain a small fleet of 16-plate Land Rovers with just my husband’s modest income and a team of 38 self-employed QuinoaLife cosmetics consultants underneath me, and so I am sure that anyone else would be able to manage it.’