New smart motorways are being cancelled over cost and safety concerns

For many drivers this news will be very welcome

See our earlier NEWS item

Photo credit: Highways Agency
Posted: 240416
Building of all new smart motorways is being cancelled over cost and safety concerns
The UK Government has announced 14 planned schemes, including 11 already on pause and 3 set for construction, will be scrapped due to finances and low public confidence.

What are smart motorways?
They are stretches of motorway where technology is used to monitor the road, regulate traffic flow and ease congestion. They also use the hard shoulder as an extra lane of traffic to help traffic flow, but critics claim they have led to road deaths. Existing smart motorways (10% of the motorway network in England) will remain and undergo a previously announced safety refit to create 150 more emergency refuge or stopping places and also use improved technology.

Three main types of smart motorway
> Controlled - which have a permanent hard shoulder, but use technology such as variable speed limits to adjust traffic flows.

> Dynamic - where the hard shoulder can be opened up at peak times and used as an extra lane. When this happens, the speed limit is reduced to 60mph.

> All-lane running - where the hard shoulder has been permanently removed to provide an extra lane; emergency refuge areas are provided at regular intervals for cars that get into trouble. In those cases drivers are meant to aim for the emergency refuge areas (essentially laybys) placed at intervals along the road. The concern is that with no hard shoulder at all, if a car is in trouble and not able to reach an "emergency refuge area or layby" the car will be stranded in the nearside lane with a flow of traffic pounding up behind with the possibility of vehicles crashing into the stranded car with the driver and any passenger(s) inside!

What motorway sections will no longer be or become new all-lane-running smart motorways?

M3 junction 9-14
M40/M42 interchange
M62 junction 20-25
M25 junction 10-16

The following stretches were due to be converted to all-lane-running, but will remain dynamic smart motorways:

M1 junction 10-13
M4-M5 interchange
(M4 junction 19-20 and M5 junction 15-17)
M6 junction 4-5
M6 junction 5-8
M6 junction 8-10a
M42 junction 3a-7
M62 junction 25-30

Schemes in the pipleine which have been cancelled:

M1 North Leicestershire
M1 junctions 35A-39 Sheffield to Wakefield
M6 junctions 19- 21A Knutsford to Croft

Smart motorways under construction
The construction of two stretches of smart motorway from junctions 6 to 8 on the M56, and from 21a to 26 on the M6, will continue as they are already more than three quarters complete.

Most of the concerns many drivers have with smart motorways are with the "all-lane running" type.

Systems used to alert drivers of dangers on smart motorways
They are:
> Alerting drivers of a stranded car in any lane
The speed with which emergency signs are posted on the gantries above the motorway as a warning of a stranded car in the nearside lane is crucial to avoiding a serious accident to a stranded car and its occupants, and indeed to other motorists.

> Emergency signs on overhead gantries
All three types of "smart motorways" above use overhead gantries to alert and direct drivers. Variable speed limits are introduced to control traffic flow when there is congestion, or if there is a hazard ahead then a red X is shown closing the lane and requiring drivers to move from the nearside lane into the second or other lanes. These speed limits are monitored for driver compliance by speed cameras.