Smart Motorways Closed For More Than A Month Due To Broken Down Vehicles

Mon 9th Mar 2020

New data published by the AA has revealed that on one section of ‘smart motorway’ in the UK, there were a total 945 hours of delays in a two-year period due to cars breaking down in live lanes.

The AA has long campaigned for a review of the use of smart motorways and have gathered evidence following a Freedom of Information request, which suggests that the use of all-lane running motorways is not working.

Focusing on a small section of the M3 between Junction 2 and Junction 4a, the AA found that there were a total of 2,227 breakdowns, with each one closing a lane for an average of 25 minutes. There were also 318 hours of delays caused by 271 traffic collisions, lanes being closed for an average of one hour and 10 minutes each time.

The Department for Transport is already reviewing the use of smart motorways following the broadcast of a highly publicised Panorama programme which revealed the number of deaths caused on the controversial roads.

Edmund King, president of the AA, commented: “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 laybys.

“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, who compiled the data, have said that smart motorways have actually reduced the number of delayed journeys. Referencing the M3 research a spokesman from the organisation said:  “This section of the M3 experienced congestion on a daily basis before the upgrade, and the number of delayed journeys has now dropped significantly, improving reliability overall. This adds up to more, better journeys being made on the M3 between junctions 2 and 4a.”

They added: “Smart motorways include a range of protection measures in place which are not present on other types of high-speed roads. These include sensors to detect the flow and speed of traffic, electronic signs to close lanes, display warning messages and slow down approaching traffic and 100 per cent CCTV coverage.

“In addition, across our network, in 2018-19 we exceeded our annual targets for keeping lanes open to traffic and the clearance of incidents within an hour.”