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Safety changes just 2 weeks in to 'smart' motorway

The new orange refuge area on the M3 'smart' motorway Credit: Highways England

Safety changes have been made to the new smart motorway in Surrey and Hampshire less than two weeks after it opened.

Emergency refuges for drivers to stop on the M3 are being made more visible with new prominent signs and orange road surfaces.

The AA said it had serious safety concerns and welcomed the move but said it doesn't go far enough.

The hard shoulder has been turned into a running lane to ease congestion.

There is still a 50 mph limit because the electronic signs that will control the scheme are being tested.

Highways England say if the new style refuge is a success they will be put on other smart motorways on the M25 and others planned for the M4, M27 and M23 near Gatwick.

Jack Cousens, The AA

We know that smart motorways are safe. But we also recognise that drivers need to have confidence when using them and be clear about where they can stop in an emergency."

“That is why we are trialling these highly visible new style emergency areas. The bright orange colouring will make them as easy as possible to spot and should also discourage drivers from using them in non-emergency situations."

“This is just one of the ways we are helping drivers to understand smart motorways and their benefits. I hope it helps drivers feel more confident about using a smart motorway.”

– Jim O’Sullivan, CEO Highways England

Our roads are some of the safest in the world but we are always looking at making them safer."

"Smart motorways are adding extra lanes to our busiest motorways and – as recent evidence shows – reducing the rate of crashes."

"We are making emergency refuge areas more visible to ensure motorists in trouble can easily identify where to stop safely."

– Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary

Drivers face more disruption as the M3 is to close over the weekend

Drivers face major disruption this weekend as the M3 is closed from this evening.

It's to allow for a bridge to be demolished between junctions two and three as part of smart motorway scheme to convert the hard shoulder into a running lane.

Drivers are being warned of more disruption as the M3 is closed overnight Credit: ITV News

The work was due to end next month but is now going to run another six months.

It comes as plans to upgrade the M4 will go ahead with work starting next March along with five years of chaos.

Critics say the schemes are not safe.

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Biggest ever road upgrade scheme for the Thames Valley approved

Part of the M4 will be turned into a Smart Motorway to reduce congestion Credit: ITV Meridian

The Government has approved an £860m scheme to remove the hard shoulder on the M4 and turn it into a running lane in Berkshire.

The decision was revealed by campaigners tonight following a letter sent to them by the Department for Transport.

It will be the biggest and most expensive road scheme the region has seen.

The entire section between Hayes, near Heathrow and junction 12 at Theale will be converted - the longest section of so-called Smart Motorway in the country.

The Government say it will reduce congestion. But campaigners have expressed anger.

Is the 'Smart Motorway' really working?

The controversial scheme for so-called 'Smart motorways' has already been in place on the M25 in Surrey for six months. Many motorists were against the idea of removing hard shoulders - saying they are vital for safety. So what effect has scrapping the lane actually had? Malcolm Shaw has been finding out.