M6 and M1 safety reviews

M6 and M1 safety reviews

Needing to stop, or being forced to stop, in an emergency on a live traffic lane is very rare. It can of course happen on any road but on high-speed roads it is more frightening, and help needs to be at hand quickly. 

In March 2020, the Secretary of State for Transport published the Smart motorway evidence stocktake and action plan. The plan committed to implementing a range of measures to help drivers be safer in moving traffic. This included commitments to speed up the rollout of technology to identify stopped drivers, improve the use of electronic overhead signs and signals to warn oncoming drivers and reduce the time it takes for help to arrive. It also included a commitment to investigate the safety performance of specific sections of the M1 and M6 smart motorways where clusters of incidents have occurred previously.

We commissioned evidence-led, independent incident and infrastructure investigations at four locations.

  • M6 Junction 5 to 6 dynamic hard shoulder (Bromford viaduct)
  • M1 Junction 10 to 13 dynamic hard shoulder
  • M1 Junction 30 to 35 all lane running
  • M1 Junction 39 to 42 all lane running

These sections of motorway were subject to consideration in the evidence stocktake because of concerns about clusters of incidents. 

As part of these reviews and our responses, we have looked at the schemes from a holistic perspective, as we do with any of our roads, and not solely at smart motorway features.  This is to ensure that safety enhancements are considered and acted upon, whether they relate to the smart motorway features specifically, or are related to other standard motorway features, such as road layout, geometry and other factors.

We have thoroughly reviewed the recommended interventions to assess their viability and have developed delivery programmes for extra measures.

Independent review findings

The objective of the independent investigations was to review collision and incident data to determine if there are clusters and trends.  A wide range of data and information was considered including evidence gathered on site and from discussions with our operational staff.

Overall the reviews found that the incidents that have occurred on these sections have contributory factors that are found on any high-speed road. These include lane changing, shunts and live lane breakdowns. Our proposed actions are targeted at the specific issues identified by the independent reviews to improve safety at each of the locations. We will continue to monitor the performance of these sections to determine whether our interventions have improved safety. If safety issues remain we will look at alternative actions to address the issues identified.

The key findings from each investigation are detailed in the reports, alongside the recommended interventions from the independent reviews and the actions we are taking.

Our response to the independent review

We’ve completed our reports detailing our plans to further improve safety on sections of the M1 and M6.

We have already acted on several of the issues identified by the independent safety reviews.

For example on the M1 we’ve reduced flooding hotspots, which could increase skidding risk and started work to install technology to detect stopped vehicles. 

And on the M6 we have adjusted the opening and closing procedures for the hard shoulder so it is kept open only when it is really needed, maximising the time when the hard shoulder is available.

Our programme

We plan to complete all the actions on all lane running schemes by March 2023.

Further actions were to be completed by March 2025 as a result of our planned programme to convert dynamic hard shoulder running (DHS) motorway schemes into all lane running sections.

In January 2022 the Government’s response to the Transport Committee’s inquiry into the rollout and safety of smart motorways was published.

In line with the response we have paused the conversion programme until the next Road Investment Strategy, so that alternative operating approaches can be considered.

We are therefore now reprogramming our planned actions which relate to this.

Additional measures to enhance safety of the M1 and M6 sections

In addition to the review findings, wider measures previously committed to will further enhance safety on these smart motorway sections.

Emergency areas

We have made all emergency areas more visible, with orange surfacing, and by the end of September 2022, drivers will almost always be able to see a sign indicating where the next emergency area is. 

Stopped vehicle detection

By the end of September 2022, we will have installed radar stopped vehicle detection (SVD) technology on all lane running sections. On DHS schemes, we plan to upgrade the central reservation barriers to concrete, where they are not already in place, and introduce technology to spot stopped vehicles.

Advice for drivers

The Highway Code was updated in Autumn 2021 meaning drivers have more, easy-to-find information on how to drive on high-speed roads, including smart motorways.

We continue to deliver our national public information campaign, Go Left, which gives drivers clear information about what to do in a breakdown. And we have launched our Driving on Motorways hub which provides a central point for all our information and advice on motorway driving.


This file may not be accessible. Request a different format

The Government's 2020 Smart Motorway Evidence Stocktake and Action Plan committed to urgently investigate what more could be done at four specific sections of the M1 and M6 smart motorways to improve safety further. This report summarises the findings of independent reviews undertaken at these locations, and our responses and the actions we are taking.

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This file may not be accessible. Request a different format

The Government's 2020 Smart Motorway Evidence Stocktake and Action Plan committed to urgently investigate what more could be done at four specific sections of the M1 and M6 smart motorways to improve safety further. This report details our response to an independent review of the M6 J5 to 6 and includes the actions we are taking.

This file may not be accessible. Request a different format

The Government's 2020 Smart Motorway Evidence Stocktake and Action Plan committed to urgently investigate what more could be done at four specific sections of the M1 and M6 smart motorways to improve safety further. This report details our response to an independent review of the M1 J10 to 13 and includes the actions we are taking.

This file may not be accessible. Request a different format

The Government's 2020 Smart Motorway Evidence Stocktake and Action Plan committed to urgently investigate what more could be done at four specific sections of the M1 and M6 smart motorways to improve safety further. This report details our response to an independent review of the M1 30 to 35 and includes the actions we are taking.

This file may not be accessible. Request a different format

The Government's 2020 Smart Motorway Evidence Stocktake and Action Plan committed to urgently investigate what more could be done at four specific sections of the M1 and M6 smart motorways to improve safety further. This report details our response to an independent review of the M1 J39 to 42 and includes the actions we are taking

Publications library
This file may not be accessible. Request a different format

The Government's 2020 Smart Motorway Evidence Stocktake and Action Plan committed to urgently investigate what more could be done at four specific sections of the M1 and M6 smart motorways to improve safety further. This report details the findings of an evidence led independent review of the M6 J5 to 6. Potential interventions to improve safety further are identified. Published September 2021. Updated May 2022 - version includes updated figure/table referencing and clarification over status of collision data used.

This file may not be accessible. Request a different format

The Government's 2020 Smart Motorway Evidence Stocktake and Action Plan committed to urgently investigate what more could be done at four specific sections of the M1 and M6 smart motorways to improve safety further. This report details the findings of an evidence led independent review of the M1 J10 to 13. Potential interventions to improve safety further are identified. Published September 2021. Updated May 2022 - version includes updated figure/table referencing and clarification over status of collision data used.

This file may not be accessible. Request a different format

The Government's 2020 Smart Motorway Evidence Stocktake and Action Plan committed to urgently investigate what more could be done at four specific sections of the M1 and M6 smart motorways to improve safety further. This report details the findings of an evidence led independent review of the M1 J30 to 35. Potential interventions to improve safety further are identified. Published September 2021. Updated May 2022 - version includes updated figure/table referencing and clarification over status of collision data used.

This file may not be accessible. Request a different format

The Government's 2020 Smart Motorway Evidence Stocktake and Action Plan committed to urgently investigate what more could be done at four specific sections of the M1 and M6 smart motorways to improve safety further. This report details the findings of an evidence led independent review of the M1 J39 to 42. Potential interventions to improve safety further are identified. Published September 2021. Updated May 2022 - version includes updated figure/table referencing and clarification over status of collision data used.

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