On the 15th April 2023, the UK Government announced that all smart motorway construction was to be discontinued.
In recent years, the United Kingdom has been investing heavily in the construction of "smart motorways," a type of roadway that uses technology to monitor traffic flow and improve safety. However, the safety of these motorways has come under scrutiny, leading to a ban on their construction.
The controversy surrounding smart motorways began in 2015 when the first section of the M1 near Sheffield was converted to a smart motorway. These motorways were designed to ease congestion by using technology to monitor and manage traffic flow. However, the safety of smart motorways has been called into question, particularly in the wake of several high-profile accidents.
Smart motorways work by converting the hard shoulder into an extra lane during peak hours. In addition, they use technology such as sensors and cameras to monitor traffic and detect any accidents or incidents. If the system detects an incident, it reduces the speed limit and closes lanes to enable emergency services to access the scene.
However, critics have argued that these measures are not sufficient to ensure the safety of motorists. The removal of the hard shoulder has been extremely controversial. Many campaigners argue that it leaves drivers stranded in live lanes when vehicles break down.
The technology used has also been criticised for being unreliable, with some incidents not being detected fast enough. This has led to concerns about the safety of motorists, especially in the event of an accident or breakdown.
In response to these concerns, the UK government has announced a ban on the construction of smart motorways. They stated that they will only build them in exceptional circumstances where they deem them safe. Many road safety campaigners welcomed this decision, arguing that the top priority should be the safety of motorists.
In addition to the ban on construction, the government has also announced a review of smart motorways, which will examine their safety and make recommendations for improvements. This review will be led by the Department for Transport and is expected to be completed later this year.
Overall, the controversy surrounding smart motorways highlights the need to prioritise the safety of motorists on the UK's roads. Although using technology to manage traffic flow is undoubtedly beneficial, it should not compromise driver safety. Banning the construction of smart motorways is a step in the right direction, and reviewing their safety presents an opportunity to ensure that they keep all road users as safe as possible.
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