Smart Motorways Under Fire Once Again

Mon 28th Feb 2022

The development of new smart motorways in the UK is currently paused as the government investigates safety concerns, but those road sections which are already live are still causing major problems.

The latest concern comes in the so-called ‘emergency refuge areas’ which were designed to replace the hard-shoulder and give broken-down vehicles a place of safety when all-lane running was activated. But leaked documents from National Highways has revealed that the orange paint used to mark out these refuge areas may be making the tarmac slippery and causing accidents when the road is wet.

An investigation has been called by the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps after the documents reported on a ‘near miss’ on the M6 which was blamed on a slippery refuge. It is thought that there are approximately 300 ‘emergency refuge areas’ on the UK road network, and the issue has been roundly criticised by motoring organisations. 

“It is a serious concern that skid resistance might be compromised in some emergency refuge areas due to the wrong sort of surface paint,” said Edmund King, president of the AA,  while Nicholas Lyes, roads policy chief from the RAC said: “Given these refuge areas are short in length and vehicles will be exiting on to a high-speed road, adequate grip is essential to avoid serious collisions when re-joining the motorway, particularly in wet conditions.”

David Bray, the agency's smart motorways programme director, said: “Through our own standard internal processes we became aware of an issue involving skid resistance on a small number of emergency areas and we are investigating whether any further surface treatments are required.”