Inquiry hears evidence from motoring groups on the safety of smart motorways

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Mike Pearse

Evidence has been heard today (19 May) from motoring organisations and emergency services at an inquiry into the safety of smart motorways. 

'All lane running' where all 4 lanes are in permanent use with no hard shoulder is already in place on parts of the M20 in Kent, the M3 in Surrey and the M23 in Sussex.

Large stretches of the M3 and M27 in Hampshire and the M4 in Berkshire are also currently being converted. 

The inquiry was set up to look at whether the Government is right to continue the roll-out of the motorways, and to assess the performance of the Department of Transport and Highways England where the upgrades are already complete.

Among those giving evidence was the President of the AA, Edmund King, who said: "People have died because they've stopped in live lanes because there was nowhere to go.

"We cannot have that approach. And that's where all lanes running currently falls down. No matter how good the radar technology, you are still at risk.

"A Highways England report said from when you break down, it takes 17 minutes on average until you're spotted. That is horrific."

What are smart motorways?

There are three main types of smart motorway currently in operation:

  • CONTROLLED MOTORWAYS - three or more lanes are used for traffic with variable speed limits, and a a traditional hard shoulder.  

  • DYNAMIC HARD SHOULDER - the hard shoulder is used as a running lane for traffic at busy times only to help ease congestion. There are emergency refuge areas at the side of the carriageway.

  • ALL LANE RUNNING (ALR)  - the hard shoulder is removed and converted into a permanent running lane. Lane 1 is only closed to traffic if there is an incident. There are emergency refuge areas at the side of the carriageway.

Traffic using a smart motorway

What motorways in the Meridian region are 'smart'?


M3 Junction 2 (M25) - 4a (Farnborough) All Lane Running

M23 Junction 8 (Merstham) - 10 (Copthorne)  All Lane Running, Opened 2020, Cost £164 million

M20 Junction 3 (Borough Green) - 5 (Aylesford) All Lane Running, Opened March 2020,  Cost £92 million

M20 Junction 5 (Aylesford)  - 7 (Detling Interchange) Controlled Motorway

M25 Junction 2 -3, 7-23 Controlled Motorway

M25 6-7 Eastbound  All Lane Running

Under construction (All Lane Running):

M3 Junction 9  (Winchester/A34 interchange) -14 ( M27 Southampton interchange) Cost £139 million, End date 2023-24

M27 Junction 4 (M3 interchange) - 11 (Fareham) Cost £244 million, End date July - September 2021 

M4 Junction 3 (Hayes) - 12 (Theale)  Cost £848 million, End date 2022

The inquiry by the Transport Select Committee was launched earlier this year. In March the Government published a report with an 18 point action plan on smart motorways. It included a commitment that no new upgrades would open without radar technology installed to detect broken down vehicles.

Highways England has always argued they are generally 'as safe or safer' than conventional motorways, but there have been repeated calls by campaigners for them to be scrapped because of safety concerns.