The implementation of smart motorways has long been a controversial issue, since the Department for Transport halted the expansion of all-lane-running (ALR) systems due to escalating safety concerns the UK government has now taken the decision to halt all new smart motorways construction. Nonetheless, there are already several miles of smart motorway in operation throughout the United Kingdom, making it crucial for drivers and riders to become proficient in navigating them.
As expected, drivers have numerous inquiries about these modern motorways, such as their purpose, proper usage, and protocol for breakdowns, as well as inquiries about their safety and the potential fines for violating the rules.
We have compiled responses to many of these questions to provide drivers with a safer and more efficient driving experience. Please feel free to contribute to the discussion by sharing your own experiences with smart motorways.
In usually congested areas, a smart motorway is a segment of a motorway that employs traffic management techniques to improve capacity and decrease traffic congestion.
These techniques involve converting the hard shoulder into a traffic lane and implementing variable speed limits to regulate traffic flow.
Smart motorways were created by Highways England (previously known as the Highways Agency) to manage traffic in a manner that minimises environmental impact, construction expenses, and time, by eliminating the necessity for extra lanes.
There are three types of smart motorways schemes.
All lane running schemes are smart motorways that permanently eliminate the hard shoulder and transform it into a running lane, only closing lane one in the event of an incident signalled by a red X on overhead gantries or verge-mounted signs. Mandatory speed limits are displayed through signage and enforced by speed cameras, but sudden changes can be dangerous for drivers who must remain alert and respond quickly. CCTV is used to monitor traffic for incidents, and emergency refuge areas (ERAs) are available for drivers to use in case of breakdowns or accidents. However, ERAs are spaced further apart than in dynamic hard shoulder sections, leading the RAC to call for more ERAs closer together and radar technology to detect stricken vehicles in live lanes.
Dynamic hard shoulder running allows the hard shoulder to be used as a running lane during busy periods, with a solid white line distinguishing it from the carriageway and overhead gantries indicating whether it is open to traffic. Signs over the hard shoulder are blank or display a red X when it must not be used, except for emergencies. Mandatory speed limits are displayed on gantries, enforced by speed cameras, and sudden changes have been a concern for drivers. CCTV is used to monitor incidents, and emergency refuge areas are available for breakdowns or accidents.
Controlled motorways have three or more lanes with variable speed limits and a traditional hard shoulder that should only be used in an emergency. Overhead gantry signs display variable speed limits which are enforced by speed cameras. Drivers have expressed concerns about sudden speed limit changes, but Highways England has stated there is a slight delay before cameras start enforcing new limits to allow drivers to adjust their speed. However, drivers should remain alert and respond to variable speed limits promptly and safely.
There are many reasons why smart motorways can be dangerous such as:
However, it is worth noting that Highways England, the body responsible for managing motorways in England, has previously stated that smart motorways are safe when used correctly and that they have implemented measures to reduce the risks associated with them. It is important for drivers to remain vigilant and follow the rules and guidelines when driving on smart motorways to ensure their safety.
Another concern with smart motorways is the spacing and availability of emergency refuge areas (ERAs). In the case of "All Lane Running" schemes, the hard shoulder is permanently converted into a traffic lane, and ERAs are placed less frequently than on traditional motorways. This means that if a vehicle breaks down or is involved in an accident, there may not be a safe place to stop, putting the driver and passengers at risk.
Furthermore, in case of an incident or an emergency, the time it takes for help to arrive may be longer on smart motorways, as there is no hard shoulder for emergency services to use. Instead, they must navigate through live lanes of traffic to reach the scene, which can be a hazardous process.
Another issue is the implementation of variable speed limits. Drivers have reported sudden changes in speed limits causing confusion and resulting in collisions. While Highways England has clarified that there is a slight lag between when the speed limit is changed and when the cameras start enforcing it, some drivers may not be aware of this and may react abruptly to the new speed limit.
In summary, while smart motorways have been introduced to help manage traffic flow and reduce congestion, there are concerns about their safety, particularly regarding the removal of the hard shoulder and the availability of emergency refuge areas.
There are many already constructed sections of smart motorway within the UK.
|All Lane Running||Dynamic Hard Shoulder||Controlled Motorway|
|M1||J16 to J13 (formerly under construction)
J19 to J16
J24 to J25
J28 to J31
J32 to J35a
J39 to J42
|J10 to J13||J6a to J10
J23a to 24
J25 to J28
J31 to J32
|M3||J2 to 4a|
|M4||J3 to J12 (formerly under construction)||J19 to J20|
|M5||J4 to J6||J15 to J17|
|M6||J2 to J4 (formerly under construction)
J10a to J13
J13 to J15 (formerly under construction)
J16 to J19
|J4 to J10a||J10a to J11a|
|M20||J3 to J5 (formerly under construction)||J4 to J7|
|M23||J8 to J10|
|M25||J5 to J6/7
J23 to J27
|M27||J4 to J11 (formerly under construction)|
|M42||J7 to J9|
|M60||J8 to J18|
|M62||J10 to J12 (formerly under construction)
J18 to J20
J25 to J26
|J23 to J30||J28 to J29|