National Highways defends smart motorways after tech failures

National Highways has defended the safety record of so-called smart motorways after claims technology supposed to keep drivers safe fails regularly.

Figures obtained by Panorama revealed hundreds of incidents when crucial safety equipment was out of action, leaving vehicles stranded in fast-flowing traffic.

Furthermore, a traffic officer who works on the network told the programme he no longer considers smart motorways safe.

National Highways, however, says “smart motorways are our safest roads”.

The Government agency maintains major routes in England, including smart motorways which are stretches of road where technology is used to regulate traffic flow and ease congestion.

These include 193 miles of “all-lane-running” motorways where the hard shoulder has been permanently removed to provide an extra lane.

A further 63 miles of smart motorway sometimes opens the hard shoulder to traffic, while there are a further 140 miles of the network where the hard shoulder has been retained.

Operational control director at National Highways, Andrew Page-Dove, said: “Safety is our highest priority and our motorways are statistically some of the safest in the world, but there is still work to do as every death is a tragedy and every serious injury a life changed.

“We need to help everyone feel confident when using smart motorways.”

The move to smart motorways began in the Midlands on the M42 in 2006, but new smart motorways – including 11 that had already been paused and three new schemes – were halted by the Government in April 2023, with ministers citing financial pressures and a lack of public confidence.


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