The UK Government has scrapped plans to build more smart motorways but indicated that it will continue to invest in those that are already in place.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said the cancellation will apply to work on 11 already paused from the Road Investment Strategy for 2020-25 and three earmarked for construction under the strategy for 2025-30 – citing financial pressures and a current lack of confidence among drivers.
This partly reflects increasing anxieties about the effectiveness of stopped vehicle detection (SVD) technology, a major element of smart motorways, which are also characterised by the absence of hard shoulders on some stretches.
The DfT had previously committed to stepping up investment in SVD, but has now acknowledged worries about it failing to prevent serious accidents.
Listening to concerns
Transport Secretary Mark Harper MP said: “We want the public to know 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.”
Independent road safety campaigner, Meera Naran, whose eight-year-old son Dev, died in a motorway collision on the M6 in 2018, said: “Since successfully campaigning for the 18-point action plan, £900 million commitment and the pause in the roll out in January 2022, there has been a lot of joined up thinking in mutually coming to this decision.
“I thank ministers and executives for inviting me to work alongside them in memory of Dev, towards a mutual goal and for their commitment over the years.”
£900 million spend
The Government and National Highways continue to invest £900 million in further safety improvements on existing smart motorways.
This includes progressing plans on installing 150 extra emergency areas across the network in line with the commitments made in response to the Transport Select Committee, as well as further improving the performance of stopped vehicle detection technology on every all lane running smart motorway.
While no new stretches of road will be converted into smart motorways, the M56 J6-8 and M6 J21a-26 will be completed given they are already over three quarters constructed.