Scrap every smart motorway in Britain, critics urge

Scrap every smart motorway in Britain, critics urge

April 16, 2023

Now go ahead and scrap every smart motorway in Britain, critics urge as a new crackdown on danger roads in announced

  • PM Rishi Sunak announces 14 future smart motorway schemes will be axed 
  • Read more: Widow of driver killed on smart motorway begs for hard shoulder 

Rishi Sunak’s smart motorways ‘ban’ began to unravel yesterday as officials admitted half of the roads set for the chop are already smart m-ways – and will remain so.

The Prime Minister said at the weekend that 14 future schemes will be axed as he acknowledged drivers do not have ‘full confidence’ in the controversial roads.

But seven of these, covering around 100 miles, already don’t have a permanent hard shoulder and will stay that way, Government sources confirmed. It means, in reality, only seven are being axed.

Two further schemes, on the M56 and M6, will still open this year as they are already more than three-quarters built.

There are also fears that the shelved roads could be revived as the Government’s announcement referred to them being removed from 2020-2025 and 2025-2030 building strategies, raising questions about whether they could be revived post-2030.

The Prime Minister has said that 14 future smart motorway schemes will be axed 

Rishi Sunak acknowledged concerns about safety and cost of smart motorway

Transport Secretary Mark Harper fuelled those fears last night, writing for The Mail+ that the move ‘will allow more time to track public confidence in smart motorways over a longer period’.

But he said: ‘As the Prime Minister has said, all drivers deserve to have confidence in the roads they use to get around the country, which is why he committed to stop the building of all new smart motorways. Promise made, promise delivered.’

He added: ‘We remain determined to make existing smart motorways as safe as possible, and are investing £900million in delivering safety improvements across the network.

‘This includes improving the performance of stopped vehicle detection technology on every all-lane running (ALR) smart motorway, adding an extra 150 emergency areas, and giving motorists clear advice when using existing smart motorways.’

It came as calls grew for ministers to go further by restoring the hard shoulder on hundreds of miles of existing schemes.

But Tory party chairman Greg Hands yesterday said the existing stretches will remain.

Asked if the roads will ‘disappear’ altogether, he told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme: ‘No, we’re not saying that. We’ve said we will not approve any new smart motorways, clearly as a result of public concerns and safety concerns, and we’re going to keep a close eye on the situation with the existing smart motorways.

‘But at the moment the announcement is purely about no new smart motorways.’ The PM’s weekend announcement said 14 planned ALR smart m-ways – where their hard shoulder is removed and turned into an extra live lane to increase capacity – were being cancelled.

Sunak during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons

It means drivers can be marooned in live traffic if they cannot reach an emergency layby.

But seven of the 14 are already ‘dynamic hard shoulder’ (DHS) smart motorways. These turn the hard shoulder into an extra lane during peak traffic times, effectively converting them into ALR motorways at certain times.

Government sources yesterday confirmed these seven schemes will remain as DHS roads.

READ MORE: Plans for deadly smart motorways are SCRAPPED by Rishi Sunak after PM acknowledged safety concerns


Edmund King, president of the AA, said: ‘Rather than remain as dynamic hard shoulder, why not convert them back to having a permanent hard shoulder?

‘They were going to do the work [converting to ALR] anyway. The Prime Minister has said the public no longer has confidence in smart motorways and a dynamic hard shoulder is a smart motorway.’

On existing schemes, he added: ‘It is quite clear, and all our surveys reflect this, that drivers want the return of the hard shoulder. There should be an immediate inquiry to look at that.

‘You can’t on the one hand have the Prime Minister saying that drivers have lost confidence in smart motorways, and then on the other hand say that they’ve got to continue driving on hundreds of miles of smart motorways. That is not logical.’

Claire Mercer launched the Smart Motorways Kill campaign after her husband Jason, 44, was hit by a lorry on the M1 in 2019. She said of the PM’s announcement: ‘It doesn’t go far enough. It doesn’t cover existing roads, and of course it’s the existing roads that are killing people because they are being left as sitting ducks in live lanes.’

Tory Karl McCartney, a member of the Commons transport committee, was pleased by the announcement but added: ‘We cannot stop there as we need to urgently review the existing ones.’

There are more than 400 miles of ALR smart m-ways when both carriageways are counted. In the five years to 2020, there were 38 deaths on smart m-ways.

Mr Sunak pledged to ban new schemes in last summer’s Tory leadership race. Around 37 per cent of breakdowns on smart motorways happen in live lanes.

The Government says scrapping the future schemes will save more than £1billion.

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