Smart motorway enhancements

The government’s review into smart motorway safety has resulted in a package of 18 measures, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced.

Chief among the Department for Transport (DfT) plans is the abolishment of the so-called ‘dynamic’ hard shoulder, which sees the hard shoulder operate as a “part-time” running lane, as well as speeding up the deployment of stopped vehicle detection technology. This measure alone should accelerate the closure of lanes in the event of a broken down vehicle.

At the same time, the DfT wants to reduce the gaps between the emergency refuge laybys, lessen the amount of time it takes Highways England patrols to arrive at an incident, and increase the visibility of refuges. The government also plans to spend £5 million on “targeted communications campaigns to further increase awareness and understanding of smart motorways”, as well as investigating accident hotspots to check whether changes need to be made.

Mr Shapps said the smart motorway had helped the country deal with a 23 per cent rise in traffic over the past two decades, but acknowledged “concerns” over their safety. The new action plan, he claimed, would “raise the bar” on smart motorway safety. “Overall, what the evidence shows is that in most ways, smart motorways are as safe as, or safer than, the conventional motorways,” said Shapps. “But not in every way. To ensure we are doing all we can do to improve safety, I am publishing a package of 18 different measures. This will allow us to retain the benefits of smart motorways, while addressing the concerns that have been identified.”

Highways England chief executive, Jim O’Sullivan, said his organisation, which is tasked with managing the country’s strategic road network, would be responsible for implementing the government’s recommendations.

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