Smart Motorways to Double in Number by 2025
Smart motorways are set to double in number over the next six years – and be renamed “digital roads”.
Jim O’Sullivan, chief executive of Highways England, has told The Times that by 2025 it is expected there will be a total of 788 miles of smart motorway in operation.
Smart motorways are also to be renamed “digital roads” – but this is not the only change planned. Along with the new name, plans include emergency lay-bys to be placed closer together, and a speed limit increase from 50mph to 60mph.
Highways England claims the new system will improve safety – but the Campaign for Safer Roadside Rescue and Recovery (CSRRR) argues that the plans “come at the cost of reduced safety of those who work on the hard shoulder”.
All-lane running (ALR) smart motorways, which currently make up approximately 100 miles of the smart motorway network, use the hard shoulder as a fourth lane.
CSRRR’s concerns have been echoed by MPs, including Conservative MP Tracey Crouch, who told BBC 5 Live: “We need the government to pause and reflect on whether we’re getting this right. [We need] a better understanding about how we can protect those who have broken down and the recovery workers that come to assist them.”
However, a Highways England spokesperson commented, “Smart motorways are good for drivers; they add extra lanes giving extra space so more people can travel, they use technology which makes journeys more reliable and evidence proves they are as safe as traditional motorways, which are already among the safest roads in the world.
“Feedback from road users shows the majority feel confident driving on a smart motorway, and that they are safer and improve journey times.”