Government presses the brakes on rollout of smart motorways

1st Feb, 2022

Smart motorways have been around for a while now, but ever since their introduction there’s always been a persistent edge of confusion and uneasiness surrounding them, however much the government has tried to dispel it. Most people are more or less on board with their traffic calming capabilities, but what’s been much more controversial has been the removal of the hard shoulder on some of these smart motorways (turning them into ‘all lane running’ or ALR motorways).

Proponents of smart motorways have argued that this makes ALR motorways more efficient and therefore more desirable than their older counterparts, but the danger that they pose isn’t purely hypothetical; there have already been a number of recorded accidents on ALR motorways, some serious enough to force at least one driver to decide: I need to scrap my car. Recently though, anyone understandably cautious about about smart motorways may have breathed a sigh of relief, as the government has announced that the rollout of further smart motorways is to be paused due to safety concerns – especially ALR variants.

Smart motorways: in focus

By now, we’ve all probably driven on at least one smart motorway, whether we’ve realised it or not. The aim of smart motorways is to help control the flow of traffic and theoretically lead to fewer accidents and incidents. You’ll have probably seen this being done via the use of variable speed limits when driving on them which get projected onto the overhead gantries.


Issues with ‘all-lane running’ smart motorways

The change in speed isn’t the big issue with them, the chief problem comes from the ‘all-lane running’ smart motorways. These are the ones where the hard shoulder has been removed to be used as an extra lane and vehicles that come into difficulty are expected to use the ‘refuge areas’ that can be found at intervals.

Sadly, a number of tragic accidents have happened when vehicles have become stranded in these extra lanes and it has reached a point where their safety has been called into question. To date, there’s now over 200 miles of smart motorway that lacks a permanent hard shoulder.

The government has now said it will look over the road safety data from the last five years on smart motorways to decide what to do with them. It will also pause the construction of a further 57 miles that was due to start this year, but it will finish the 100 miles that are currently being built and keep the existing ones running.

What the future might hold

The analysis of the data and the pause in construction is apparently going to take another five years, but if they are found to be unsafe then more measures will need to be brought in to protect drivers. The government has already said around £390m will be invested to produce more refuge areas where they’re needed, so it doesn’t look good so far.

At the same time, if the data shows that smart motorways are working as they should, we can probably expect to see further investment in them and more stretches of motorway being turned into them.

As the dates mentioned above show, it’ll be a while before we know for sure what might happen with smart motorways in the future, but you can trust us to keep you posted here at Scrap Car Network. In the meantime, we can support you by doing what we do best, helping you to get the right price when scrapping your vehicle. You can do this right now by entering your car registration and postcode here. And rest assured, there’ll be no five-year wait involved – we’ll get back to you straight away with an instant quote.

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