Poll: UK to pause smart motorway rollout

In this week’s poll, we ask for your reactions to the UK government’s decision to pause the roll-out and introduction of new smart highway schemes

The rollout of new smart highway schemes with all lanes being paused until five years’ worth of safety data is available, the UK government has announced.

smart highway
Smart highway in England, UK with light trails indicating heavy traffic during rush hour. Image: Callum at stock.adobe.com

The decision follows a Report of the transport selection committee published in November, which concluded that the Department for Transport and Highways England had failed to deliver on its promises to implement safety improvements for Smart Motorways across all lanes.

While both agencies have claimed that smart highways are relatively the safest roads in the country in terms of fatalities, the lack of an emergency lane in all lanes has resulted in a number of deaths in recent years, and road safety campaigners are calling for a reconsideration. of the government’s plans.

During the five-year hiatus, the Department for Transport (DfT) will invest £900 million to improve safety on existing smart highways rather than repair hard shoulders. This includes £390 million for more than 150 additional emergency areas across the network, as well as funding for measures such as stopped vehicle detection and concrete median barriers.

As further data is collected, National Highways will continue to complete schemes currently under construction, and design work will continue on those schemes already planned.

National Highways will also pause the conversion of dynamic hard shoulder (DHS) – where the hard shoulder is open at busy times – to all carriageway highways, while exploring alternative ways to use them to make things easier for motorists.

“While our first data shows that smart highways are among the safest roads in the UK, it is critical that we move forward to ensure people feel safer using them,” said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

Road safety campaigner Meera Naran, whose young son Dev died on the hard shoulder of the M6 ​​in 2018 after a lorry hit his grandfather’s car, welcomed the break, saying: “I am encouraged by the £900million pledge to support the safety of our highways, following my campaign since Dev died, however, I will continue to both challenge and work with the Department of Transportation to ensure more is done, including calling for legislation for autonomous emergency braking and further support for ongoing driver training.

In this week’s poll, we ask for your opinion on the government’s decision. Do you think it is taking the right approach or should it go further and drop the idea altogether? Have your say by voting in our poll, and share your thoughts on smart highways in the comments below the line.

Commenting on the announcement, Jamil Ahmed, senior engineer at Ottawa-based middleware company Solace, said: “Current challenges stem from drivers not reacting quickly enough to detect a malfunctioning vehicle and move out of lane. with the red x’s, either don’t arrive in time to protect the stationary vehicle and its passengers, or drivers don’t react fast enough.”

“The answer is simply to disallow normal traffic to use those lanes, and return to the previous status quo that the general public desires. Instead, just like the way bus lanes work, only certain classes of vehicles will enter that section of the highway. It is critical that these vehicles are imbued with the required technology through sensors and automated braking to ensure public safety.”

“This lays the foundation for a future of truly smart highways where those lanes can be restricted to trucks driving in highly efficient platooning convoys, coupled with ‘eHighway’ technology for overhead power supply, creating a green and climate-friendly solution for our highway transportation. challenges arise. The government can present a green solution that immediately adds value for both business and the public.”

Abhishek Maheswari
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