MPs call for end to smart motorway rollout

Wednesday, January 2, 2019 - 15:38
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The rollout of smart motorways – where the hard shoulder is converted into a fourth lane – should be stopped, a group of MPs says.

According to BBC News, an all-party parliamentary group of MPs is backing campaigners who say having no hard shoulder puts motorists and recovery workers at risk.

First introduced in 2014, smart motorways use variable speed limits to manage traffic and tackle stop-start congestion.

The hard shoulder is turned into an ‘active lane’, with gantry signs displaying a red X indicating if a lane is closed – usually as a result of a vehicle breakdown or in the event of a collision.

There are three main types of smart motorways in the UK:

  • Controlled
  • Dynamic hard shoulder – where the hard shoulder is used as a lane in busy traffic
  • All Lane Running (ALR) – where the hard shoulder is permanently a fourth lane

The ALR schemes are the most common – and are causing the greatest concern, according to BBC News.

England has more than 100 miles (161km) ALR smart motorways, with a further 225 miles in the pipeline.

BBC News references figures which show that last year, on these stretches, there were 16 crashes across all lanes which caused injury involving stationary vehicles, such as broken-down cars.

Over the same period, there were 29 similar crashes involving vehicles parked up on the hard shoulder across the whole of the rest of the network in England – around 1,800 miles of road.

In response, Highways England says ALR smart motorways are as safe as traditional motorways and make journey times more reliable.

Highways England says it will continue to make design changes to smart motorways, including introducing systems that detect stationary vehicles.

BBC News story:


  1. Unfortunately there is always going to be a delay from the time a vehicle stops to the time traffic is stopped in the inside lane. Delay from the time a lane closed sign appears traffic already approaching won’t be able to change lane traffic quickly, traffic that has already passed the sign will be unaware. Also how many times have everyone driven down a motorway with warning lights flashing or speed limits imposed, signs saying queues for miles but never seeing an obstruction. This encourages motorists to ignore warning signs.

  2. Smart Motorways are only as smart as the people operating them, and that is where the problem lies. They should be called ‘Billy Smart Motorways’ because generally speaking it’s the clowns who are operating the overhead matrix signs

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