“Great deal of work” needed to improve Smart Motorways

10.53 | 2 March 2021 |

Image: Highways England

The RAC has questioned whether the Government will be able to “overcome people’s fears” about the permanent removal of the hard shoulder on smart motorways.

Last week (26 Feb), the Transport Committee launched a new inquiry into smart motorways, which use variable speed limits and hard shoulder running to manage traffic and tackle stop-start congestion.

The most common type in the UK, all-lane-running (ALR), was introduced in 2014 and involves opening the hard shoulder permanently to drivers.

The inquiry will investigate the benefits and safety of smart motorways, as well as their impact on reducing congestion.

Responding to the inquiry, the RAC says there is “an increasing level of concern” around the safety of smart motorways from drivers through to MPs at Westminster.

The motoring organisation adds that while progress has been made to improve safety, “there is still a great deal of work to do”.

There are also questions over whether the Government will ever be able to convince the driving public it is safe to permanently remove the hard shoulder, the RAC notes.

Nicholas Lyes, RAC head of roads policy, said: “There is an increasing level of concern around the safety of smart motorways from the driving public through to Westminster. 

“While a major review has identified a number of key actions to improve safety and some progress has been made, there is still a great deal of work to do which will take several years to complete.

“But even when all these issues are addressed, we wonder whether they will go far enough to overcome people’s fears about the permanent removal of the hard shoulder on these schemes. 

“If the Government is going to persist with all lane running, it must make sure all schemes – both new and existing – are built and operate to the highest possible safety standards. 

“Crucially, SOS areas need to be more frequent so drivers have a better chance of reaching one in an emergency.

“Whatever happens, it will remain the case that the safety of any driver who comes to a stop in a live smart motorway lane depends both on the lane being closed quickly by Highways England and other drivers then abiding by red X closed lane signs.”



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