Driver's pleas heard by Prime Minister as plans for all new smart motorways are scrapped

Campaigners have fought against the use of smart motorways for over 15 years, but their voices have been ignored... until now! Check out this blog to find out how the UK government's latest announcement is being seen as a win by drivers.

Driver's pleas heard by Prime Minister as plans for all new smart motorways are scrapped

Is this the end for the dangerous 'smart' motorway?

It sure looks that way as the UK government has recently announced that plans for any new smart motorways have been abandoned due to safety concerns voiced by drivers, as well as the backlash around projected costs; it's estimated that the construction of the planned smart motorways would have cost the UK taxpayer over £1 billion.

Did you know... National Highways estimates that smart motorways account for around 10% of the motorway network?

Smart motorways were first introduced to UK roads in 2006, with the aim of improving traffic flow and reducing congestion, particularly during peak times, using variable speed limits and lane-control systems. The lane-control system is without a doubt the most controversial feature of the smart motorway design as it allows for the closure of the hard shoulder, which campaigners have fought hard against. In total, there's 235 miles worth of smart motorway without a hard shoulder – that's over 62% of the smart motorway network!

As part of the announcement, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:

"All drivers deserve to have confidence in the roads they use to get around the country.

"That’s why last year I pledged to stop the building of all new smart motorways, and today I’m making good on that promise."

The Road Investment Strategy (2020 to 2025) included plans for eleven new smart motorways to be built, with an additional three assigned in various parts of the country in the Road Investment Strategy (2025 to 2030) – construction for all of these smart motorways, and any others planned, will no longer go ahead. However, work will continue on the partly constructed M56 J6-8 and M6 J21a-26 smart motorways as the projects are over three quarters completed.

What does this mean for existing smart motorways?

To the disappointment of many, the 375 miles of smart motorway network that already exists won't be going anywhere. Although, £900 million has been allocated by the UK Government for safety improvements, which includes the development of stopped vehicle detection technology and a commitment of the installation of an extra 150 emergency areas across the network – made in response to the Transport Select Committee.

"I have waited a long time for politicians to listen and at last let’s hope that this decision marks the end of the deadly 'smart' motorways."

- Edmund King OBE, AA President


Information includes references to:

RAC - Is this the end for smart motorways in the UK? – All new smart motorways scrapped

Auto Express - Smart motorway ban: campaigners want hard shoulders reinstated

National Highways – Driving on motorways

The AA - AA 'smart' motorway victory

Industry news | 27.04.23

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