UK Government pauses smart motorway roll-out
The rollout of new smart motorway schemes is to be paused until a full five years’ worth of safety data is available.
In line with the Transport Committee’s most recent recommendations, the rollout of new ALR (All Lane Running) smart motorways will be paused until enough safety data becomes available for schemes introduced before 2020. After this point, the Government will assess the data and make an informed decision on the next steps.
Although available data shows smart motorways are comparatively the safest roads in the country in terms of fatality rates, the Government claims it will ensure current smart motorways without a permanent hard shoulder are equipped with best-in-class technology and resources to make them as safe as possible.
This will include investing £390 million to install more than 150 additional Emergency Areas so drivers have more places to stop if they get into difficulty. This will represent around a 50% increase in places to stop by 2025 in the hope it will give drivers added reassurance.
The Department for Transport has welcomed the Transport Committee’s report, which endorsed its focus on further upgrading the safety of existing ALR smart motorways rather than reinstating the hard shoulder.
Says Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:
“One of my first actions as Transport Secretary was to order a stocktake of smart motorways and since then, I have worked consistently to raise the bar on their safety. I am grateful to the Transport Committee and to all those who provided evidence for its work.
“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 yet to start construction and making multi-million-pound improvements to existing schemes will give drivers confidence and provide the data we need to inform our next steps. I want to thank safety campaigners, including those who have lost loved ones, for rightly striving for higher standards on our roads. I share their concerns.”
Adds independent road safety campaigner, Meera Naran, whose 8-year-old son Dev, died in a motorway crash on the M6 in 2018:
“Conventional and smart motorways both have their risks and benefits. I welcome this pause in the rollout of smart motorways which will give us all a positive opportunity to assess the future of our motorway network.
“I’m encouraged by the commitment of £900 million to improve the safety of our motorways, following my campaigning since Dev died. However, I’ll continue to both challenge and work alongside the Department for Transport to ensure even more is done, including calling for legislation to be looked at for Autonomous Emergency Braking and further support for on-going driver education.”