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  • Mark Salisbury

Plans for new smart motorways abandoned, report suggests

A media report claims that the Government has scrapped plans to introduce any new smart motorways, over fears about safety and cost.

In January 2022, the Government announced that the rollout of new smart motorway schemes would be paused until five years’ worth of safety data became available.

According to the i newspaper, plans ‘have been shelved for the foreseeable future’ – with ‘no new smart motorways currently set to be built’.

The report quoted senior industry sources who said they had been told the smart motorways project was to be ‘scaled back significantly’.

One contractor told the newspaper future planned routes ‘would be abandoned’.

They said: “We’re no longer expecting any new smart motorways.

“Financial pressure on the Government, alongside the unpopularity of the scheme, makes it seem untenable going forward.”

While there has been no official announcement by the DfT, a source said that data and evidence was continuing to be collected ahead of future decisions on the scheme.

The RAC says that if the reports are true, they represent an admission from the Government that it “no longer has faith in these types of roads”.

Nicholas Lyes, RAC head of roads policy, said: “If ministers are giving serious consideration to completely scrapping new all-lane-running smart motorways, then this is an admission that the Government no longer has faith in these types of roads, a conclusion that most drivers came to a long time ago.

“The next big question is: what happens to the hundreds of miles of motorway without a hard shoulder? It’s clear from RAC research that drivers want the hard shoulder back, so it may be the case that solid white lines have to be painted to all the inside lanes of these motorways.

“While overall capacity would be dramatically reduced, we would still have the benefit of all the installed technology, such as variable speed limits which help to manage traffic flow more efficiently.”

Rishi Sunak, Prime Minister, pledged during the Conservative Party leadership election last year to ban smart motorways, labelling them unsafe.

The prime minister said: “Smart motorways are unpopular because they are unsafe. We need to listen to drivers, be on their side and stop with the pursuit of policies that go against common sense.”

Article source: Road Safety GB

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