Smart Motorways: The Future of Roads

Smart motorways have been exploding up all across the UK since the Highways Agency started using the term back in 2013, with a new report by BBC One Show showcasing their benefits.

Join van hire and leasing expert Northgate as they dig into the past, present and future of smart motorways:

Smart Motorways

What is a smart motorway?

Before we dig into the efficiency of smart motorways, first let’s take a gaze at just what they are.

Each stretch of smart motorway uses technology which dynamically manages traffic flow, with this technology functioned by a regional traffic control centre near the course. Traffic is carefully observed at these control centres, whereby officers are able to trigger or modify signs and speed limits on the smart motorways in an effort to always keep traffic flowing freely.

How effective and safe are smart motorways?

The efficiency and welfare of smart motorways are measured by the aforementioned BBC One Show study, which investigated eleven sections of smart motorway found on stretches of the M1, M4, M6, M25 and M42.

According to the investigation, there stood 52,516 fixed penalty fines issued on these roads in 2015 as a result of drivers going beyond the speed limit. On the same lanes of the motorway between 2010 and 2011, only 2,023 fixed fines were issued for the offence — demonstrating a 2,500 per cent upsurge over the past five years.

The BBC One Show also estimated from the data that it had collected that the revenue that went to central government has increased from £150,600 five years ago to more than £1.1 million last year.

Tips for driving on a smart motorway

If you have not ever driven on a smart motorway previously, here’s what you must bear in mind:

  • The current speed limits of the tracks are presented on the gantries above — you should always match that limit.
  • You should leave a smart motorway as soon as it is harmless to do so if your vehicle experiences problems, such as a warning light appearing on your dashboard.
  • Never drive in a lane that has a signal with a red ‘X’ over it — this means that the lane is barred. You risk a fine if you continue driving on this lane.
  • When the hard shoulder is being used for normal traffic, you should only use the emergency refuge area (ERA) for an emergency. These are identified by a sign that is blue and features an orange SOS telephone symbol.
  • If you see solid white lines between any two lanes, this designates the hard shoulder — you should not be driving in the hard shoulder unless told so.
  • If you see a broken white lines between two roads, this designates a normal running lane — you can always drive in these lanes, unless there is a red ‘X’ sign overhead.
  • If you break down before being able to exit a smart motorway or reach a refuge area, you must switch your hazard lights on and wait for assistance to arrive.

The future of smart motorways

There is already surplus of 230 miles of smart motorway stretching across UK. However, Highways England is currently planningmany more miles of these roads through the resulting plans:

Ongoing smart motorway work

  • The pathamid junctions 19 and 16 of the M1 in the East Midlands is being converted into a smart motorway, with work set going to complete in spring 2017.
  • The pathamid junctions 32 and 35a of the M1 in the North of England is being converted into a smart motorway, with work set going to complete in spring 2017.
  • The pathamid junctions 2 and 4a of the M3 in the South East of England is being converted into a smart motorway, with work set going to complete in summer 2017.
  • The pathamid junctions 4a and 6 of the M5 in the West Midlands is being converted into an ‘all lane running’ smart motorway, with work set going to complete in spring 2017.
  • The pathamid junctions 16 and 19 of the M6 in the North West of England is being converted into a smart motorway, with work set going to complete in spring 2018.
  • The pathamid junction 8 of the M60 and junction 20 of the M62 in the North West of England is being converted into a smart motorway, with work set going to complete in autumn 2017.

Future Projects

  • There is a recommendation to change the route amid junctions 13 and 15 of the M6 in the West Midlands into a smart motorway. If approved, the construction will start in spring 2018 and is estimated to be completed by spring 2020.
  • There is a recommendation to change the route amid junctions 23a and 25 of the M1 in the East Midlands into a smart motorway. If approved, the construction will start in early 2017 and is estimated to be completed by late 2018.
  • There is a recommendation to change the route amid junctions 3 and 12 of the M4 in the South East of England into a smart motorway. If approved, the construction will start in spring 2017 and is estimated to be completed by spring 2022.

Further details of all future smart motorways across the UK can be found on the Highways England website.

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