Smart Motorways ‘Too Complicated’ Says Highways England Chief

Thu 24th Oct 2019

Hard shoulder use on smart motorways could become a thing of the past after the Chief Executive of Highways England admitted that the driving public is confused by their use.

Jim O’Sullivan, Chief Executive of Highways England was speaking to a Commons’ Transport Select Committee and said that though smart motorways are “as safe or safer than conventional motorways” the controversial use of hard shoulders is causing problems.

“People whose normal daily commute takes place at 8am or 9am, if they’ve been to the dentist and come out at 11am they drive down the hard shoulder,” O’Sullivan said.

“When we close it at other times of the day, people still drive down it.

“We get people who stop there when it’s a running lane,” he told the committee.

“What we also find is because people aren’t sure if it’s a hard shoulder or a running lane, even when it is open, the usage of that running lane is much lower because people aren’t sure whether it’s a hard shoulder or not.”

He added: “I don’t think we will be building any more dynamic hard shoulder smart motorways. They’re just too complicated for people to use.”

The issue of using the hard shoulder as a live running lane has caused controversy with a number of incidents highlighting the dangers of allowing moving traffic into an area traditionally the reserve of broken down vehicles. In March an 81-year-old man was killed when he stopped in the fast lane of the M1 in Derbyshire, believing he had nowhere else to stop his car due to smart motorway regulations.

Safer motorways, not smarter motorways should always be the priority says Steve Gooding of the RAC Foundation saying: “The simpler motorways are to understand the safer they will be, as motorists concentrate on the hazards ahead rather than grappling with which lanes are available to them and which are not.”