Smart Motorways

A smart motorway (formerly managed motorway) is a section of motorway in Great Britain that uses active traffic management (ATM) techniques to increase capacity by use of variable speed limits and hard shoulder running at busy times (source: wikipedia). Auto Express have provided more information – click here. ‘Smart motor­ways are a technology-driven approach to the use of our motor­ways. They increase capac­ity and relieve con­ges­tion while main­tain­ing safety. Smart motor­ways help make jour­ney times more reliable. The hard shoul­der is used for traf­fic, either per­ma­nently or at peak times. This cre­ates an extra lane to pro­vide addi­tional capacity’ (source)

  • 05/2017 – Although smart motorways are becoming increasingly common across the UK, millions of motorists are unaware what to do in the event of an emergency on them – click here.

‘Smart’ motorways are also referred to as ‘All Lane Running’ motorways. The following documents are available:

Government must not ignore safety concerns of ‘all lane running’

29 September 2016

The Transport Committee publishes the Government’s response to its report on ‘all lane running’ motorway schemes, urging the Government not to ignore the safety concerns that were presented.

Minister’s determined to press ahead despite safety concerns

In a report published in June 2016, the Transport Committee warned that Government should not proceed with ‘all lane running’ schemes while major safety concerns exist. The Committee argued that the permanent conversion of the hard shoulder into a running lane is a radical change to the nature of motorways and creates a real challenge for motorists. Click here for more information.

However, Ministers seem determined to press ahead with the latest design of all lane running schemes, ignoring the concerns expressed by MPs and other motoring organisations.

Chair’s comments – Louise Ellman, Chair of the Transport Committee, commented:

“The Department for Transport is blatantly ignoring the safety concerns set out in our report. We had barely received the response to our report before the Government endorsed an all lane running scheme on the M4.

The Committee isn’t arguing with the Government about the need for more capacity on our motorways, or their statement that motorways are our safest roads. We support smart motorways such as the M42 scheme.

But we take real issue with the Government’s assertion that all lane running schemes on motorways are no different to other types of roads without hard shoulders. Motorways are a different class of road and drivers have different expectations when using them.

In the same response, Ministers recognise that the public needs to learn about variable speed limits and compliance with Red X signals on these motorways.  Even then, we believe that education will fail without enforcement and ministers need to ensure that failure to comply is backed up with effective enforcement.

The Committee remains concerned about the size and spacing of Emergency Refuge Areas. While we are pleased that Highways England has committed to a review, the M4 proposal should not have gone ahead until the review is complete.

We are not the only people who are worried about this incarnation of All lane running schemes. In the course of our inquiry, there were genuine concerns raised by the emergency services, road workers and recovery operators. The Government cannot ignore them.”


In ‘all lane running’, the latest version of smart motorways, the hard shoulder is used as a live lane of traffic. Previous schemes have only used the hard shoulder at peak times or to deal with congestion. In 2015, the Department for Transport forecasted that traffic on the strategic road network would increase by up to 60% by 2040. The Government sees smart motorways as a way of addressing this growth without incurring the costs of traditional motorway widening.

Plans are in place to permanently convert the hard shoulder into a running lane on around 300 miles of motorway. Highways England has a programme of 30 all lane running schemes to the value of circa £6 billion over the next nine years.

The Transport Committee published its report on all lane running on 30 June 2016.

31/05/2017 – Consultants ProCon Partners wins HE Smart Motorway contracts

Project controls consultancy ProCon Partners has won a series of projects with Highways England to ensure the smooth delivery of smart motorway installations across England.

The five projects, which have a combined overall value of £2.4billion, will cover the M4, M1, M6, M20, M23, A14 and A21.

ProCon will deploy their Live Reporting and Analytics Service to give real-time feedback on the progress of each project, which it was will enable Highways England to improve traffic flow for the hundreds of thousands of drivers who use the roads every day. Full story – click here

12/09/2018 – A woman has died on a stretch of smart motorway on the English network near Sheffield when the car she was in broke down on the northbound carriageway and was then crashed into.

The Times reports that it is believed that the 62-year-old woman, who was a passenger, got out and was standing near by when a Mercedes E-class collided with the Nissan Qashqai and then her. It says 30-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving.

The stretch, between junction 30 and 31, has been converted into a smart motorway with no hard shoulder and differential speed limits to keep traffic flowing at peak times with Red X signs warning other motorists not to use that lane in the event of a breakdown.

The Times adds that it is believed that police are investigating if the signs were operating at the time or whether the driver of the second car ignored or missed the signal.

Edmund King, president of the AA, told the paper, “This is an unlit stretch of road and a car stationary in lane one — whether or not they had their hazard lights on — would have been difficult to see at speed. Unfortunately it backs up the concerns we have been airing for the last three or four years that we need more emergency areas where cars can pull off the road if they are in trouble.”

A Highways England spokesman commented to it, “Our deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of the woman involved in the tragic incident on the M1 near Sheffield on Sunday evening. As police investigations are ongoing, it would not be appropriate to comment further at this time. We can reassure drivers that safety is and always will be our top priority.” report – click here