More than 60% of drivers think that all-lane-running schemes should be scrapped entirely, according to a survey by the RAC.
All-lane-running (ALR) is the most common type of ‘smart motorway’ used in the UK. The schemes were introduced in 2014 and involve opening the hard shoulder permanently to drivers.
According to the survey of 2,600 drivers, carried out by the RAC as part of its Report on Motoring 2021, 62% believe ALR schemes should be scrapped entirely and the hard shoulder reinstated, while retaining the technology that manages traffic flows and detects breakdowns.
Only a quarter of the respondents (24%) support the continuation of current policy, which is to stick to four permanent running lanes and no hard shoulder, while increasing the number of emergency refuge areas and including extra technology to detect stationary vehicles and cameras to catch motorists who ignore closed-lane signs.
Most drivers (63%) do not believe the measures being implemented by National Highways (formerly Highways England) to compensate for the removal of the hard shoulder – such as variable speed limits in response to incidents or to control traffic flow, closed-lane signs, SOS emergency refuge areas up to every 1.6 miles apart and technology to detect slowing or stationary vehicles – are adequate.
Just 15% stated they thought they were adequate, with a fifth (21%) unsure.
The RAC says its research ‘reveals the enormous strength of feeling’ among drivers of all ages about the safety of ALR smart motorways.
Nicholas Lyes, RAC head of roads policy, said: “We’ve always had safety concerns about ALR motorways and have raised these by giving evidence to two separate Transport Committee inquiries. While the Government published its 18-point action plan in 2020, the RAC has continued to push for new safety features to be introduced as quickly as possible.
“Although much of the plan is on track and the installation of crucial stopped vehicle detection technology is now due to be completed ahead of schedule, it seems the only thing that will truly satisfy most drivers is the reinstatement of the hard shoulder.
“The Government is therefore faced with a difficult choice between continuing to roll out unpopular all-lane-running motorways very much against drivers’ wishes or reinstating the hard shoulder, effectively creating three-lane ‘controlled motorways’ which would have the benefit of improved safety features but with less overall capacity.
“The RAC, however, believes there’s a third option worth considering which provides increased capacity without adversely compromising safety.
“Rather than simply scrapping dynamic hard shoulder schemes, which only open the hard shoulder to traffic at busy times of the day, these schemes could be made the new standard as they still offer somewhere to stop away from live traffic in the event of a breakdown during quieter times, while still accommodating more traffic at busy times.”