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Smart motorway rollout paused until further data available
The rollout of new smart motorway schemes will be paused until five years’ worth of safety data is available, following recent recommendations from the cross-party Transport Select Committee, which judged the current evidence base insufficient.
Once a full five years’ worth of safety and economic data becomes available for schemes introduced before 2020, the government will assess the data and make an informed decision on next steps.
While the Department for Transport (DfT) argues that available data shows smart motorways are comparatively the safest roads in the country in terms of fatality rates, it said that 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 on current all-lane running (ALR) motorways, which represents a 50% increase in places to stop by 2025.
DfT 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.
The safety improvements set out in the government’s 2020 action plan will be independently evaluated by the Office for Rail and Road (ORR), with an annual report published on progress.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps MP 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.”
Michelle Gardner, Head of Public Policy, Logistics UK, said: “While Logistics UK has supported the use of smart motorways to tackle congestion, this pause in their rollout gives the government the time and space to consider alternative options for enhancing capacity on the Strategic Road Network as it prepares for the next Road Investment Strategy.
“Logistics UK has called for an evidence-based approach to be adopted when assessing the safety of smart motorways and welcomes the government’s acceptance of these recommendations. We continue to support measures to ensure smart motorways are as safe as possible for all road users.”
Published On: 20/01/2022 16:00:51