After 14 people reportedly died on smart motorways in 2019, it has been confirmed by the Transport Committee that they are launching a new inquiry into the benefits and safety of smart motorways. MPs will also consider their impact on reducing congestion on busy sections of motorway and other roads in the strategic road network.
Smart motorways were introduced as a technology-driven approach to deal with congestion through increasing capacity on motorways and controlling the flow and speed of traffic and have existed in England in some form since 2002. There are currently three different types of smart motorway schemes:
- Controlled motorways
- Dynamic hard shoulder
- All lane running
The all lane running (ALR) scheme permanently removes the hard shoulder and converts it into a running lane. The Transport Committee are going to consider as part of their inquiry if ALR is the most suitable type of smart motorway or whether there are better alternatives.
The dynamic hard shoulder scheme involves opening the hard shoulder as a running lane to traffic at busy periods to ease congestion. Controlled motorways have three or more lanes with variable speed limits but with the traditional hard shoulder remains. In 2019 a RAC Report on Motoring found that 68% of people surveyed felt that removing the hard shoulder on motorways compromises safety.
The committee wants to hear your views and are welcoming submissions from anyone on the following issues:
- The benefits of smart motorways, for instance to reduce congestion on busy sections of motorway, and how necessary they are;
- The safety of smart motorways, the adequacy of safety measures in place and how safety could be improved;
- Whether ALR is the most suitable type of smart motorway to roll out or if there are better alternatives;
- Public confidence in using smart motorways and how this could be improved;
- The impact of smart motorways on the usage and safety of other roads in the strategic road network;
- The effectiveness of Highways England’s delivery of the smart motorways programme, the impact of construction works, and the costs of implementation.