Home » UK government scraps plans for new smart motorways in England

UK government scraps plans for new smart motorways in England

by Liam Turner
A road sign on a UK motorway

The building of new smart motorways in England is being cancelled, the UK government has confirmed.

Fourteen smart motorways – including 11 whose construction is already paused and three earmarked for construction – will be removed from government road-building plans, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak citing concerns around safety and cost.

The Department for Transport said the construction of these schemes would have cost more than £1bn.

Two stretches of smart motorway will continue, however, as they are already mostly complete.

Existing smart motorways will remain but be subjected to a safety refit so there are 150 more emergency stopping places across the network.

Smart motorways – which cover around 10% of England’s motorway network – involve various methods to manage the flow of traffic, such as converting the hard shoulder into a live running lane and variable speed limits.

The government hopes the move will address concerns that arose following fatal incidents in which vehicles stopped in live lanes without a hard shoulder and were hit from behind.

In January 2022, the government paused the expansion of motorways where the hard shoulder is used as a permanent live traffic lane.

This was to enable five years of data to be collected to assess whether they are safe for drivers.

Commenting on the move, 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.

“Many people across the country rely on driving to get to work, to take their children to school and go about their daily lives, and I want them to be able to do so with full confidence that the roads they drive on are safe.”

The government had been coming under increasing pressure to scrap the routes, which have been criticised by MPs and road safety campaigners such as the AA.

AA president Edmund King 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.”

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “We want the public to know that this government is listening to their concerns.

“Today’s announcement means no new smart motorways will be built, recognising the lack of public confidence felt by drivers and the cost pressures due to inflation.”

Image credit: Jevanto Productions/Shutterstock

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