by Tiana May
13 Jan 2022
In line with the Transport Committee’s recent recommendations, the UK government is pausing the rollout of new smart motorway schemes until it can review five years of safety data.
Smart motorways are ones that have been equipped with active travel management (ATM) such as variable speed limits and hard shoulder running in order to improve capacity and smooth traffic flow.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has also invested 900 million GBP in improving the safety of the UK’s existing all lane running motorways.
Although current data relating to fatality rates suggests that smart motorways are comparatively safer than other roads, the government now plans to ensure that smart motorways without a permanent hard shoulder are equipped with advanced technology and resources to maximise their safety potential.
As part of the 900 million GBP investment, 390 million GBP will be invested to install over 150 additional emergency areas where drivers can stop if necessary. This 50 percent increase in stopping places aims to provide drivers with more reassurance throughout their journeys.
“While our initial data shows that smart motorways are among the safest roads in the UK, it’s crucial that we go further to ensure people feel safer using them. Pausing schemes and making multimillion-pound improvements to existing schemes will give drivers confidence and provide the data we need to inform our next steps.”
The DfT’s response to the Transport Committee’s recommendations builds on their existing 18-point action plan that includes adding emergency areas and upgrading cameras to detect red X offences, as well as investing in measures to detect stopped vehicles and install concrete central reservation barriers.
National Highways will also increase their communications so that drivers are sufficiently informed on how best to drive on smart motorways.
Furthermore, in line with the committee’s recommendations, the conversion of dynamic hard shoulder motorways into all lane running motorways will be paused while National Highways investigates alternative ways to operate them. Technology to detect stopped vehicles will also be installed on these roads.
However, while further safety data is collected, current construction projects on smart motorway schemes will continue, as halting progress would result in significant and unnecessary disruptions for drivers.
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