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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

Progress on smart motorway safety work as details of extra emergency areas announced


Eleven more sections of motorway will be upgraded with extra places to stop in an emergency, National Highways announced today.

Earlier this year, the Government cancelled plans for any new smart motorways, recognising cost pressures and the lack of confidence felt by some drivers.

It has also committed to build more than 150 additional emergency areas on all lane running (ALR) motorways across the country by 2025, part of a £900 million investment in further safety improvements on existing smart motorways.

National Highways today also publishes the latest progress it has made delivering a series of actions to further improve the safety of smart motorways. Its ‘Smart motorways stocktake third year progress report’ also sets out the safety evidence (2017 to 2021) for smart motorways.

National Highways Chief Executive, Nick Harris, said: “Safety is our highest priority and we are committed to further improving all lane running motorways. We have completed key upgrades to improve the performance of technology to detect stopped vehicles, and today we have set out the next sections of motorway to benefit from the programme to install more than 150 extra emergency areas to give drivers added reassurance. We are also continuing to invest £105 million to improve the resilience of our operational technology systems.”

Caption: An emergency area on the M62 in West Yorkshire

Today’s update builds on the work already taking place across the motorway network.

An additional five emergency areas have already been added on the M6 in Staffordshire and a further eight on the M1 in Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire, while the motorway upgrades were in construction.

In June, work began on more than doubling the number of emergency areas on the M1 in South Yorkshire between junctions 32 and 35a.

Now, a further 11 locations have been announced for additional emergency areas:

• M1 junctions 16 to 19 in Northamptonshire

• M1 junctions 23a to 25 in Leicestershire & Nottinghamshire

• M1 junctions 28 to 30 in Derbyshire

• M1 junctions 30 to 31 in Derbyshire

• M3 junctions 2 to 4a in Surrey & Hampshire

• M4 junctions 10 to 12 in Berkshire

• M5 junctions 4a to 6 in Worcestershire

• M6 junctions 21a to 26 in Cheshire

• M20 junctions 3 to 5 in Kent

• M25 junctions 5 to 7 in Surrey & Kent

• M27 junctions 4 to 11 in Hampshire

In its third annual progress report published today, National Highways confirmed it has now delivered all the actions set out in the March 2020 Smart Motorway Safety Evidence and Action Plan due to have been completed by this point. This includes achieving the national average 10-minute attendance time for traffic officers on ALR motorways where emergency areas are more than a mile apart.

The report includes the safety evidence (2017 to 2021), which continues to show that overall, all three types of smart motorway are safer than conventional motorways in terms of deaths or serious injuries. National Highways has also published scheme by scheme data, showing how safety compares on smart motorway sections before and after they were upgraded.

In addition to the stocktake actions, National Highways is also investing £105 million to further improve operational technology on ALR smart motorways. Key upgrades to improve the performance of technology to detect stopped vehicles on motorways without a permanent hard shoulder have already been completed.

Together, the investment in extra emergency areas, along with additional technology like stopped vehicle detection (SVD), better and more signs for emergency areas, and more information about smart motorways online and in an updated Highway Code, aims to help road users feel even safer and more confident on the strategic road network.

Information on the national emergency area retrofit, including the full list of locations, can be found here

The third annual progress report can be found here

Further information on the progress National Highways has made to improve the performance of its radar-based SVD technology on ALR motorways can be found here


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