More hard shoulders are set to be taken away as 372 more miles of smart motorways are set to be rolled out across parts of the UK.
Further stretches near Leeds and Sheffield are set to turn ‘smart’, as well as the M62 linking Manchester and Leeds. The length of the M1 from London to Leeds and the M6 between Manchester and Birmingham are also set to be continuous smart motorways.
Smart motorways aim to improve congestion by monitoring traffic more closely, as well as having variable speed limits, which appear on gantries. To create a fourth lane of motorway, the hard shoulder is removed. On some stretches, it still exists as a ‘dynamic hard shoulder’, which is where it can be opened to improve traffic flow.
The roads also use a system that can help to shut off lanes (marked using a red ‘X’ overhead) if there is ever a stationary vehicle stranded on the motorway, or debris, for example.
Currently, there are 416 miles of smart motorways across the UK, although this is set to increase to 788 by 2025, according to Jim O’Sullivan, chief executive of Highways England, who announced the further rollout in an interview with The Sunday Times.
O’Sullivan also said that the name is set to change to ‘digital roads’. These will also see a number of changes take place on them — including more emergency lay-bys and an increase of 50mph to 60mph during stretches where roadworks are taking place.
He told The Sunday Times: “You will not get a car or truck drift into the emergency refuge area, whereas they can and drift into the hard shoulder.
“We are now well into smart motorway operation and the statistics we have are reliable.
He added: “They are telling us that the safety record on smart motorways is arguably better than what we see on conventional motorways.”
Despite the rollout, the motorways have been criticised by organisations such as the AA, which has raised safety fears with the smart roads after the death of a motorist on a section of the M1 that had no hard shoulder.