MP JAKE Berry has stepped up his campaign to get the M66 hard shoulder opened to traffic at rush hours to improve journeys into Manchester.

The Rossendale and Darwen MP spoke out as the Highways Agency is reviewing its use of ‘smart’ managed motorway technology.

Currently, vehicles on the M6 through Birmingham are allowed to use the emergency refuge at peak times to cut traffic jams.

Now, the Highways Agency is looking at how the technology permitting this can be extended across the UK.

This allows variable speed limits and use of the hard shoulder as a traffic lane to cut congestion.

So far, the agency plans to use the technology to open the hard shoulder to traffic on the M6 in Cheshire, on the trans-pennine M62 near Rochdale.

And also on the M60 western route either side of junction 18 Simister Island.

But Mr Berry wants to see this happen on the southern end of the M66 towards the M60. He has met with Highways Agency chiefs to push the case for the extra rush hour lane to end morning traffic jams from Rossendale into Manchester and evening congestion out of the city back towards Haslingden and East Lancashire.

Mr Berry said: “I believe using the hard shoulder at peak times on the M66 into Manchester would ease traffic jams and cut journey times for residents of Rossendale and East Lancashire commuting into the city.

“I have met with Highways Agency chiefs to discuss this and whether to use the system on the M65.

“It would make a big difference to journey times and they have promised to look at this for the future.

“If they are bringing the system in to the M60 and M62 round Simister Island, it would make sense to do the same on the southern end of the M66.

“That stretch gets heavily congested into Manchester in the mornings and out of the city in the evenings.”

A Highways Agency spokesman said: “We have no current plans to use the hard shoulder on the M66 or M65.

They do not meet our usage criteria for the change.”