Smart Motorways Paused For Five Years

Thu 13th Jan 2022

The safety of smart motorways using the ‘all-lane running’ feature has been called into question after the Department of Transport announced that using hard shoulders as lanes would be paused for five years.

The scheme, which has turned many motorways into four lane highways, had been implemented to increase capacity during times of congestion, but it had also caused controversy following a number of high-profile fatalities.

Following a number of campaigns and appeals from family members of those killed on the smart motorways, the government has announced that it will pause the use, while it collects safety and economic data.

The most modern versions of the smart motorways include emergency refuge areas, however many motorists who break down fail to reach those areas and critics say they are left stranded while the Highways Agency takes action.

“This watershed decision is an unqualified victory for drivers, many of whom have deeply-held concerns over the safety of motorways where the hard shoulder is permanently removed,” said Nicholas Lyes, RAC head of roads policy.

“Rather than ploughing on regardless in the face of mounting public opposition, we’re pleased the Government has finally hit the pause button and given itself time to fully consider the safety of these schemes, and the way our motorways are adapted to increase capacity from now on. 

“We have long argued that dynamic hard shoulder and controlled motorway schemes – both of which feature a hard shoulder in some form – should be considered given their good safety record and it’s important these options are on the table.”