Smart motorways programme
Highways England is tackling congestion on England’s motorways by making them “smart”.
Congestion on the motorway and major road network in England costs an estimated £2 billion every year, with 25 per cent of this resulting from incidents. So cutting congestion creates economic benefits for the region and the country as a whole.
In our business plan we laid out our plans to make your journeys more reliable. This includes adding more than 4000 miles of extra capacity through smart motorways.
About smart motorways
Smart motorways are a technology-driven approach to the use of our motorways. They increase capacity and relieve congestion while maintaining safety. Smart motorways help make journey times more reliable.
The hard shoulder is used for traffic, either permanently or at peak times. This creates an extra lane to provide additional capacity.
Technology is used to monitor congestion levels and change the speed limit when needed to smooth the traffic flow. This reduces frustrating stop-start driving and improves your journey reliability.
Smart motorways use pioneering technology to manage traffic at busy times. We can use technology to:
- change the speed limit to smooth traffic flow — this reduces frustrating stop-start driving and improves journey times
- activate warning signs to alert you to traffic jams and hazards up ahead
- close lanes – for example to allow emergency vehicles through
Smart motorways mean increased road capacity faster and at less cost than traditional road widening schemes. And they are just as safe – often safer. The hard shoulder is converted to become a normal lane – or can be opened to traffic when things get congested.
How we know smart motorways work
We already have evidence of the benefits that a smart motorway scheme can bring. The first smart motorway scheme (known then as a managed motorway) opened to traffic on the M42 motorway in 2006. Analysis of data gathered since opening has found that:
- journey reliability improved by 22 per cent
- personal injury accidents reduced by more than half
- where accidents did occur, severity was much lower overall with zero fatalities and fewer seriously injured
We’re committed to safety in every aspect of our work. Our all lane running smart motorway design is based on robust analysis by experienced professionals using tested methodologies.
This analysis demonstrates that our safety objectives were likely to be achieved with road user safety no worse than before all lane running is implemented. Our initial results on the M25 all lane running sections indicate that this is the case.
Emergency refuge areas
Emergency refuge areas provide an area of relative safety following a breakdown on a smart motorway. If you are driving at 60mph you will reach a place you can stop in an emergency every 75 seconds on average.
There is an emergency telephone in each refuge area. This connects you to our Regional Control Centres and pinpoints your location
Highways England is committed to delivering better environmental outcomes. Smart motorways remain within current motorway boundaries so they have the built-in advantage of minimising the environmental “footprint” of the scheme. We carry out thorough environmental assessments to identify and assess potential environmental impacts and recommend mitigation that can be included in the scheme to minimise them.
Each scheme has its own project web pages where you can find out what we are doing both before and during construction.
Roadworks are needed to create a smart motorway. We’ll usually need to put in place safety measures like:
- narrow lanes traffic management
- temporary concrete safety barriers
- speed restrictions
- temporary closures of the carriageways at night — clearly signed diversions would be put in place
We may also temporarily alter junction layouts to allow for resurfacing and other improvements.
If you would like to know more about smart motorways you can contact us