National emergency area retrofit

Adding more places to stop in an emergency

National emergency area retrofit

What's happening

At National Highways safety is our top priority. 

We have listened to drivers' concerns about being able to find a safe place to stop in an emergency on all lane running (ALR) smart motorways.

We have been developing a programme to create additional emergency areas on sections of ALR motorway across the country.

In its response to the Transport Select Committee’s report The roll out and safety of smart motorways, the Government committed £390m over the duration of the second Road Investment Strategy to roll out an emergency area retrofit programme. 

This would see over 150 additional emergency areas being added to ALR motorways in operation and construction.

We have committed to rolling out more emergency areas on all lane running smart motorways, both in operation and construction.

In comparison to January 2022, the £390m programme will see around 50% more emergency areas across the ALR network, giving drivers added reassurance.  

The latest data (2016-2020) shows that, overall, in terms of serious or fatal casualties, smart motorways are our safest roads.   

This investment in new emergency areas is all designed to help road users feel safe and be even safer on our roads. It is part of other improvements we are making, including:

  • technology, such as stopped vehicle detection
  • better and more signs
  • more information about smart motorways online and in an updated Highway Code

Through all the work we are doing, we are determined to:

  • further reduce the number of casualties on our high-speed road network
  • improve public confidence in our smart motorways
  • continue to build and operate one of the safest and best performing road networks in the world.  

About emergency areas 

On motorways that don’t have a permanent hard shoulder, emergency areas provide a place to stop in an emergency if you can't:

  • exit the motorway
  • stop at a motorway service area. 

Emergency areas are marked by blue signs featuring an orange SOS telephone symbol. They are coloured orange and around the same length as a football pitch.

Emergency areas are positioned at regular intervals, providing somewhere safe to stop and have phones linked directly to our control rooms. 

Find out more about what to do if your vehicle breaks down on the motorway.

Our programme

We are delivering this programme in phases. 

We've already added:

  • five additional emergency areas on the M6 junctions 13-15 in Staffordshire
  • a further eight emergency areas to the M1 in Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire between junctions 13-16 

All of these emergency areas are now available for use.

Next, we are retrofitting more than 40 additional emergency areas on:

  • the M1, between J32-35a in South Yorkshire
  • M1 J39-42 in West Yorkshire
  • M25 in Hertfordshire and Essex


Location Status

M1 J13-16 (Bedfordshire & Northamptonshire) 

M6 J13-15 (Staffordshire) 

Added emergency areas to schemes in construction 

M1 J32-35a (South Yorkshire) 

M1 J39-42 (West Yorkshire) 

M25 J23-27 (Hertfordshire & Essex) 

Work due to start from spring 2023.

Further details of the 150 emergency areas being added will be available in due course when they have passed through necessary governance.

Retrofitting more emergency areas across the remainder of all lane running motorways will be considered when formulating the 2025-30 Road Investment Strategy. This will be based on evidence of benefits and whether the additional emergency areas help drivers to feel safer.

Find out more

You can email the project team directly at