Govt to overhaul smart motorways after safety concerns

Written by: Simon Pavey, Last updated:7th September 2021

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed action is to be taken to improve safety on smart motorways after continued concerns expressed by road users and motoring organisations.

In a statement published on Thursday (March 12th 2020), he said an in-depth review had been carried out, which found “in most ways” they are “as safe as, or safer than, the conventional [motorways]. But not in every way”.

Action plan for better driver safety

Now, a package of measures Mr Shapps called an ‘action plan’ is to be rolled out across the country to ensure drivers are not being put at unnecessary risk during their journeys.

In what will come as a relief to many, the dynamic hard shoulder that doubles up as a live running lane is to be abolished in favour of a more traditional system.

New technology to improve ‘stopped vehicle detection’ is also to be brought in so lanes can quickly be closed in emergency situations where vehicles are blocking traffic.

This comes after a Freedom of Information request from the BBC forced Highways England to admit their current network of CCTV cameras is incapable of monitoring all smart motorways all of the time.

Further measures included in the overhaul are an increase in the number of emergency refuge areas so drivers only have three-quarters of a mile between places to stop; and partnerships with sat-nav providers to ensure motorists know where to go if they find themselves in difficulties.

“By these measures we ensure safety is at the heart of our smart motorway programme and assure public confidence in the motorway network. We will continue to monitor the data and work with campaigners to ensure that improvements are delivered,” Mr Shapps concluded.

The AA has already called the announcement a victory for common sense.

Jenny Smith, general manager for Tele-Gence, commented: “We recently suggested a safety review into smart motorways was necessary, and we’re pleased to see this is just what has been happening. Let’s hope these improvements are rolled out as soon as possible to keep our road users as safe as they can be.”

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