- Video report by ITV News Meridian's Mark McQuillan
Vehicle breakdowns along a 13-mile section of smart motorway on the M3 has caused more than 900 hours of disruption over two years, new figures reveal.
A freedom of information request uncovered by the Basingstoke-based AA found that more than 2,200 breakdowns in a live lane between J2-4a, forced that lane to be closed as the driver could not reach an Emergency Refuge Area (ERA).
The FOI request found more than 945 hours of disruption over a two-year period (August 2017-October 2019).
The AA says it is calling for double the number of Emergency Refuge Areas.
It has also been revealed that 271 traffic collisions caused more than 13 days worth of lane closures, while 158 obstructions closed lanes for more than two and a half days.
AA president, Edmund King, says: “One of the main selling points of ‘smart’ motorways was to ease congestion but the number of live lane stops and lane closures is undermining its effectiveness.
“While some lane closures are inevitable, many of the 2,200 breakdowns could have found a safer place to stop if there were more emergency lay-bys.
“Tailbacks build at a mile a minute, so lengthy lane closures mean unnecessary jams are created which adds to congestion.
“This further highlights the need for more emergency refuge areas.”
Highways England maintains that safety is its top priority, and insists smart motorways speed up traffic.
It states on its website: "Smart motorways relieve congestion by making the hard shoulder available for use by traffic. On some smart motorways the hard shoulder is opened at busy times. On others it is permanently converted into a traffic lane (known as all-lane running). Regularly spaced refuge areas are used for emergencies - driving at 60mph you will reach a place you can stop in an emergency every 75 seconds on average."
More information can be found here.
Elsewhere on the M3, a section between Junction 9 at Winchester and 14 at M27 Southampton Interchange is being prepared to become a smart motorway. You can find out more about the plans here.