The government is pulling the plug on the development of new smart motorways across the United Kingdom due to significant concerns over both cost and safety. Currently, we have 14 smart motorway projects in the UK, 11 have already been put on hold, and there were about to begin construction. However, these will all be revoked because of financial concerns and the fact that there is no public trust. There are current smart motorways, and many people feel that these should also be scrapped and reinstated as standard motorways.
The Smart Motorway
The idea behind smart motorways was that the latest traffic management technology could reduce congestion in areas that are regularly over capacity, therefore, increasing the amount of traffic free-flowing along various stretches. This is done using information boards on a gantry above the motorway, which can instruct motorists to vary speed limits. For example, if a hazard is coming up ahead, or can display a red X to indicate that a lane might be closed.
If the motorway is really struggling with the amount of traffic, a smart motorway can also open up the hard shoulder and use it as an extra lane. Some smart motorways, known as controlled roads, will always maintain a hard shoulder, but a dynamic smart motorway utilises the hard shoulder, and when this is in force, the speed limit will also be reduced to 60 miles an hour. In some cases and all lane running, smart motorway has no hard shoulder but always offers the extra lane where the hard shoulder would've been. In this case, there need to be emergency refuge points for breakdowns at regular intervals.
Of course, with the new announcement from Richie Sunak, the prime minister, this is all set to change. As previously mentioned, the 14 smart motorways currently in the planning stage have been revoked from any government Road building plans. It is estimated that had these gone ahead; the costs would have totalled more than £1 billion. Campaigners would also like to see all Lane running smart motorways reinstated to 3 lanes with a permanent hard shoulder, but as yet, this may not come into force.
Support from All Areas
There has been significant support for this move, with most motoring organisations confident that smart motorways are dangerous and should not be utilised. Simon Williams, the RAC road safety spokesman, said, “Our research shows all-lane running smart motorways are deeply unpopular with drivers. We’re pleased the government has finally arrived at the same conclusion. It’s now vitally important that plans are made for making the hundreds of existing miles of these types of motorways as safe as possible.”
Edmund King, the President of the AA, said, “We have had enough coroners passing down their deadly and heart-breaking judgments where the lack of a hard shoulder has contributed to deaths. At last, the government has listened, and we are delighted to see the rollout of ‘smart’ motorways scrapped. We would also like to see the hard shoulder reinstated on existing stretches in due course.”