Smart motorway rollout paused

Jan 21, 2022 | All About Cars | 0 comments

There has been widespread criticism throughout the years saying that smart motorways are less safer than conventional motorways, thanks to, in part, the hard shoulder serving as a live lane – meaning, if your car breaks down, you’re far more in danger. Sure, you will find refuge areas along smart motorways, but being so far a part from each other, they have been branded as ‘pointless’ by road users up and down the country. There have been many names and schemes for traffic control systems throughout the years – Variable Speed Limits, Ramp Metering and Active Traffic Management to name just a few – but none of them have been as controversial as the dreaded smart motorway.

Love them or hate them, smart motorways are here to stay… for now. In a recent announcement made by the government, the construction of new smart motorways have been suspended after The House of Commons Transport Select Committee called for an investigation into public safety concerns. The suspension will last until at least 2025 while the government investigates the current safety data available from smart motorways that opened before 2020. However, whilst new smart motorway construction is being suspended on stretches of the M3, M25, M62, and M40, National Highways will continue to work on those already under construction.

Despite the government promising a £900m package for additional safety measures on existing smart motorways as the investigation gathers its data, road users that have been affected negatively have said it’s ‘too little, too late’.

What is classed as a smart motorway?

If you didn’t already know, a smart motorway is a stretch of road where technology is used to regulate traffic flow. The aim is to ease congestion and make the road safer. There are three types of models, and they are…

Controlled have a permanent hard shoulder, but use technology such as variable speed limits to adjust traffic flow.

Dynamic is where the hard shoulder can be opened up at peak times and used as an extra lane.

This one is pretty self-explanatory, and is also the most controversial. The hard shoulder has been permanently removed to provide an extra lane. For this type of model, refuge areas are spread out along the motorway.

All three models use overhead gantries to notify the drivers. Variable speed limits are used to control traffic if there’s a hazard or congestion ahead. Whatever your opinion is of smart motorways, any safety concerns from the public should always be investigated. Drive safe out there!