- By Katy Austin & Andre Rhoden-Paul
- transportation reporter
The government has announced the construction of all new smart highways is being canceled due to cost and safety concerns.
About 14 planned projects, including 11 suspended and 3 under construction, will be canceled due to financial problems and low public confidence.
A smart highway is a stretch of road where technology is used to regulate traffic flow and reduce congestion.
They also used stiff shoulders as a secondary traffic lane, which critics say has resulted in road deaths.
Existing smart motorways – which make up 10 per cent of the UK motorway network – will remain and undergo a previously announced round of safety improvements to create 150 more emergency stops and improvements technology.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak – who pledged to ban smart motorways during his leadership campaign – said “all drivers deserve to be trusted with the roads they use to get around the country”. “.
The Department for Transport said the new plans would cost more than £1 billion and their cancellation would allow time to track public confidence in smart motorways for a longer period of time.
What is a smart highway?
There are three main types:
- controlled, fixed role, but uses technology such as variable speed limits to regulate traffic
- dynamic, where the stiff shoulder can be opened up at peak times and used as an extra lane; when this happens, the speed limit drops to 60 mph
- running on all lanes, where the stiff shoulder has been permanently removed to provide an extra lane; Emergency shelters are provided at regular intervals for vehicles in trouble
All three models use overhead rigs for direct control. Variable speed limits are introduced to control the flow of traffic when there is congestion or if there is danger ahead. These limits are controlled by the speed camera.
Seven of the 14 projects that have been canceled will involve converting highway sections into “all-lanes” roads where the stiff shoulder is permanently eliminated.
They will now remain “dynamic” smart highways, where hard curbs can be opened up as a side lane during busy times.
Construction of the two smart motorway segments from junction six to eight on the M56 and from 21a to 26 on the M6 will continue when they are more than three-quarters completed.
Smart highways are developed to create more capacity and cut congestion on the roads without spending money and disrupting construction.
However, they have been criticized by MPs and road safety agencies, including the AA and RAC.
Edmund King, the president of the AA, said he welcomed the decision to scrap the planned smart highways and said it was a “victory for common sense”, calling for the reinstatement of the hardline role. on existing smart motorways, including a permanent red ‘X’ and new road markings. He hopes the government’s decision marks the end of the “deadly” smart motorway.
He added: “We’ve had enough coroners to deliver their deadly and heartbreaking sentences when the lack of a solid shoulder contributed to the death.”
Meanwhile, the RAC calls the plan a “watershed announcement”, saying its research shows smart motorways are “very unpopular with motorists”.
Claire Mercer, whose husband died on a smart motorway in South Yorkshire in 2019, welcomed the move but pledged to continue campaigning for stiff shoulders again all the way.
Jason Mercer and another man, Alexandru Murgeanu, died when they were hit by a lorry on the M1 near Sheffield after they stopped in the inner lane of the smart motorway following a minor collision.
Ms. Mercer said: “I am especially pleased to have confirmed that the planned routes, which are in progress, have also been cancelled. I don’t think they will.
“So that’s good news, but obviously it’s what’s currently there that’s killing us. And I’m not going to settle in more urgent refugee areas.”
Ms Mercer’s MP, Sarah Champion of Labour for Rotherham, said she was relieved the government had listened to motorists.
But she said she wanted to know if the plans currently under construction would be reinstated and why the ban has lasted so long despite the government’s review and two parliamentary committee reports. .
These expressways will no longer become smart highways with all new lanes:
- M3 junction 9-14
- Exchange M40/M42
- M62 junction 20-25
- M25 junction 10-16
The following sections of road are expected to be converted to all-lane roads, but will remain dynamic smart highways:
- M1 junction 10-13
- M4-M5 junction (M4 junction 19-20 and M5 junction 15-17)
- junction M6 4-5
- M6 fork 5-8
- M6 junction 8-10a
- M42 3a-7 . junction
- M62 junction 25-30
Plans for the following highways are being prepared, but have been cancelled:
- M1 North Leicestershire
- M1 connects 35A-39 Sheffield to Wakefield
- M6 junction 19-21A Knutsford to Croft
Meera Naran, whose 8-year-old son was killed on a smart highway in 2018 when his stationary car was hit by a truck, said the announcement was a “huge achievement” but she will continue to campaign.
She said smart highways and conventional highways “bring very different benefits and risks” and suggested merging the two models.
Speaking on BBC One’s Breakfast programme, Ms Naran said she would campaign for what she calls a “controlled motorway” using smart motorway technology with the benefit of a hardline role. .
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “Today’s announcement means no new smart motorways will be built, acknowledging the public’s lack of trust in drivers and the pressure costs due to inflation.”