£283m smart motorway scheme on M62 put on hold amid safety fears

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Plans to turn a long stretch of the M62 through Calderdale into a permanent “smart motorway” with no hard shoulder have been put on hold amid safety concerns, the Government has announced.

The Department for Transport said it will halt the rollout of new all-lane-running smart motorways – where the hard shoulder is used as a permanent live traffic lane – until it has collected five years of safety data for such schemes introduced before 2020.

The conversion of seven dynamic hard shoulder motorways – where the hard shoulder is turned on and off as a traffic lane in response to traffic flow – to all-lane-running motorways is also being paused.

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Investigation work begins on land around M62 to deliver £283m smart motorway
M62 viewed from Scammonden BridgeM62 viewed from Scammonden Bridge
M62 viewed from Scammonden Bridge

One of the national national schemes being affected by the decision include the M62 Junction 20 to 25 scheme running from Rochdale in Greater Manchester to Brighouse

Ground investigation work to push forward the £283m M62 smart motorway scheme between junctions 20 and 25 began in May 2021.

The M62 junction 20 to 25 is approximately 19 miles long, running through a rural Pennine landscape that contains the highest point on a motorway in England.

Why have the schemes been paused?

The rollout of new smart motorway schemes will be paused until a full five years’ worth of safety data is available, as the Department for Transport announced an investment of £900 million to improve safety on existing All Lane Running (ALR) motorways.

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In line with the Transport Committee’s most recent recommendations, the rollout of new ALR smart motorways will be paused until a full five years’ worth of safety data becomes available for schemes introduced before 2020.

After this point, the Government will assess the data and make an informed decision on next steps.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “One of my first actions as Transport Secretary was to order a stocktake of smart motorways and since then, I have worked consistently to raise the bar on their safety. I am grateful to the Transport Committee and to all those who provided evidence for its work.

“While our initial data shows that smart motorways are among the safest roads in the UK, it’s crucial that we go further to ensure people feel safer using them.

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“Pausing schemes yet to start construction and making multi-million-pound improvements to existing schemes will give drivers confidence and provide the data we need to inform our next steps. I want thank safety campaigners, including those who have lost loved ones, for rightly striving for higher standards on our roads. I share their concerns.”

While the rollout of smart motorwats are paused, the Government has said current smart motorways will be equipped with best-in-class technology and resources to make them as safe as possible.

This will include investing £390 million to install more than 150 additional Emergency Areas so drivers have more places to stop if they get into difficulty. This will represent around a 50% increase in places to stop by 2025,.

National Highways CEO Nick Harris said: “We have listened to public concerns about smart motorways and we are fully committed to taking forward the additional measures the Transport Committee has recommended.

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“While we pause those all lane running schemes yet to start construction we will complete the schemes currently in construction, we will make existing sections as safe as they can possibly be and we will step up our advice to drivers so they have all the information they need.

“We are doing this because safety is our absolute priority and we want drivers to not just be safer, but also to feel safe on our busiest roads.”

While the Department for Transport will be taking forward all the recommendations set out in the Committee’s recommendations, it does not agree with the view that smart motorways were rolled out prematurely or unsafely.

All ALR smart motorway schemes are, and will continue to be, subject to high standards of design, risk assessment and construction, followed by detailed monitoring and evaluation once opened to traffic the DfT said.

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While further data is being collected, National Highways will continue work to complete schemes that are currently in construction, which will all open with technology in place to detect stopped vehicles.

These schemes are all more than 50% completed and halting progress on them now would cause significant disruption for drivers. Design work will also continue on those schemes already being planned, so they are ready to be constructed depending on the outcome of the pause. No preparatory construction work will take place.

Also, in line with the Committee's recommendations, National Highways will pause the conversion of Dynamic Hard Shoulder (DHS) motorways – where the hard shoulder is open at busy times – into All Lane Running motorways, while it investigates alternative ways of operating them to make things simpler for drivers. National Highways will also install technology to detect stopped vehicles on these sections.

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