AN end to motorway misery could be sight for long-suffering users of the M27.

Plans have been unveiled to covert it into a 'smart motorway' by turning the hard shoulder into a fourth lane to improve traffic flow.

The project for the stretch of motorway between Junction 4 and 11 is part of Highway England’s smart motorway programme.

Smart motorways use pioneering technology to manage traffic at busy times – such as by changing the speed limit, activating warning signs and closing lanes if necessary.

A spokesman for Highways England said: “At present, we anticipate construction will begin on the M27 smart motorway in early 2018, with work completed in 2020.”

The project is part of Government’s £15 billion road investment strategy, which aims to increase the capacity and improve the condition of England’s roads.

Mark Miller, chair of Hampshire Chamber of Commerce’s planning and transport committee, welcomed the news, adding: “We are pleased to see additional investment in our strategic motorway network, as the additional lane will increase capacity for our hard-pressed freight and logistics sector – which is greatly affected by current congestion levels.

“Millions of pounds are wasted each year by vehicles sitting in traffic queues, so such improvements will help keep costs down for local businesses and ultimately customers.

“We are aware that smart motorways have been implemented elsewhere in the country for the same purpose, and we urge officials to ensure that there is no reduction in road safety for all users and that breakdowns, which up to now have used the hard shoulder of motorways, can still be serviced without danger or causing a larger traffic problem.

“We would also wish to ensure easy access for emergency service vehicles is maintained.

“Overall, this is a good project and we look forward to further investment in Hampshire’s strategic roads and also our rail infrastructure to ease overall capacity problems for our businesses and residents.”

The M27 has faced “chronic congestion” in some parts for years, according to Fareham MP Suella Fernandes.

Ms Fernandes said: “Good roads are vital for enabling businesses to grow, supporting the regional economy and improving people’s quality of life.

“But for years, chronic congestion along parts of the M27 has been a major concern for local people. It has become one of the top issues people in Fareham contact me about.

“I absolutely welcome the news that work to upgrade the M27 to a smart motorway will start in early 2018 – which will cut congestion and improve journey times.

“Turning the stretch from Junction 4 to Junction 11 on the M27 into a smart motorway means people will have more efficient, reliable and safer journeys – we have seen smart motorways work very well in other parts of the country, like on the M42 and M25.

“This highlights the Government’s commitment to invest in and improve our transport infrastructure, support growth and bring jobs to Fareham and the South.”

Councillor Rob Humby, executive member for environment and transport at Hampshire County Council, added: “We welcome the investment and long-term benefits this project will bring to Hampshire, and will be working closely with Highways England to ensure disruption to traffic is minimised as far as possible during construction.”