Smart motorways evidence stocktake

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Putting driver safety first

How we are delivering the government’s smart motorway evidence stocktake

Our third year progress report

Stocktake and progress reports

Putting driver safety first

England continues to have some of the safest roads in the world. Compared to other roads, motorways remain the safest to travel on.

We want drivers to not only be safe, but also to feel safe and confident using our roads, including smart motorways. But there is always more that can be done.

The latest safety data for smart motorways (2017-2021) continues to show that overall, all three types of smart motorway are safer than conventional motorways in terms of deaths or serious injuries.

We will continue to work with the Department for Transport (DfT) to:

In April 2023 the Government cancelled plans for new smart motorways. The decision recognised the lack of public confidence and cost pressures.

This followed a pause in the rollout of new smart motorways previously announced in January 2022.

How we are delivering the government’s smart motorway evidence stocktake

In 2019, the Secretary of State for Transport asked the Department for Transport (DfT) to carry out an evidence stocktake on the safety of smart motorways.

This Smart Motorway Evidence Stocktake and Action Plan, published in March 2020, aimed to:

  • better understand what is happening on smart motorways
  • recommend how to make them even safer

Since 2021, we've annually reported the progress we've made towards achieving these recommendations. 

Our third year progress report

Our Third year progress report confirms we have now delivered the majority of our stocktake actions. This includes all actions we were due to have completed to date.

Due to the time lag between the actions being delivered and the data being available, it will be later in 2023 before we can start assessing and understanding the impact of the actions.

Our improvements to date include:

Giving clarity to drivers

We have:

  • delivered breakdown advice campaigns
  • paused Dynamic hard shoulder (DHS) conversion to all lane running (ALR)
  • enabled an update of The Highway Code
  • worked closer with the recovery industry

In addition, DfT are reviewing the use of flashing red lights

We have:

  • installed 10 extra emergency areas (EA) on the M25
  • considered a national EA programme - where places to stop in an emergency are more than one mile apart
  • shared EA information with satnav companies
  • installed more signs showing the distance to the next EA
  • reviewed EA widths
  • made EAs more visible
  • introduced a new 'places to stop in an emergency' spacing standard

We have:

  • upgraded cameras to support Red X signals compliance
  • put Stopped Vehicle Detection (SVD) on all ALR schemes
  • enabled automatic 'report of obstruction' messages
  • achieved faster traffic officer attendance
  • communicated benefits of eCall and bCall functions
  • communicated benefits of Automatic Driver Assistance Systems
  • reviewed incident clusters on M1 and M6 section
  • carried out a large scale CCTV analytics trial

We are committed to going even further than the 2020 Action Plan to improve safety on smart motorways.

In November 2021 the Transport Select Committee (TSC) published its report into the Rollout and safety of smart motorways.

In January 2022 the Government published its response to the report, agreeing to all the Committee’s recommendations.

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) monitors our activities. In December 2022, the ORR noted that we had met our SVD technology installation targets.

However, the system wasn't yet meeting performance expectations, including:

  • detecting a minimum 80% of stopped vehicles within 20 seconds of them stopping
  • the proportion of times an alert was created but there was no confirmed stopped vehicle would be lower than 15%

We made a commitment that by the end of June 2023 we would:

  • aim to have met the performance expectations for SVD where it's in place
  • do so in a way which was manageable to our operators

We piloted improvements on three ALR motorways. Based on the results of those schemes we rolled out the improvements to other ALR motorways. We completed these upgrades on 14 June 2023.

Operational data (dated 21 June 2023) from the first three schemes shows the technology has improved and is now meeting the performance expectations.

We are continuing to measure the remaining schemes following the upgrade.

We are continuing with our £390 million programme to install 150 extra emergency areas.

We will also continue to work hard to:

  • deliver the commitments made to the Transport Select Committee (TSC)
  • to invest £105 million improving the resilience of our operational technology systems on smart motorways

Stocktake and progress reports