Do You Know Your Smart Motorways?

Written by John

On August 18, 2021

There are new changes happening to our motorways in the UK. We are getting smart motorways soon. But what does this mean?

Motorways in the most congested areas are suffering more and longer delays. These delays are often the result of traffic leading to congestion. The obvious solution would be to widen the motorway but this would be too expensive. The UK Government is trying to use all of its infrastructures more efficiently. One way the government is tackling this problem is to reduce the speed of vehicles, which reduces the distance needed between vehicles. This leads to a more flow of traffic and an increase in the roads carrying capacity.

This is where SMART motorways come in. BUT there is more than just one type of SMART motorway:

  • All lane running schemes
  • Controlled Motorways
  • Dynamic Hard Shoulder running schemes

Each one of these schemes has gantries over the carriageway with illuminable signs to indicate the speed limit. If no sign is illuminated then the national speed limit applies. These SMART  sections are all covered with CCTV cameras too to detect any problems should they arise.

All Lane Running Schemes

These sections of the motorway have the hard shoulder converted into a permanent running lane. In emergencies instead of the hard shoulder, there are ERA’s or Emergency Refuge Areas and those drivers that have an emergency should do their utmost to reach one of these or exit the motorway should an emergency arise.  (The ERA’s are found every mile or so and each has an emergency phone, a CCTV camera trained on the refuge and instructions in many languages to assist the driver.) If an emergency does occur and you can’t reach one of these then hazard lights should be applied and occupants wait in the vehicle. Highways England have the entire section of this all lane running carriageway covered with cameras. The control room will dispatch a Highways England 4X4 to you and assist where necessary.

Controlled Motorways

These sections of motorway have variable speed limits lit up in red circles over the lanes. This happens when traffic congestion reaches a specific volume picked up by traffic sensors. The hard shoulder remains closed at all times. There is no red X over the hard shoulder as this is only for emergency use only at all times. Dynamic Hard Shoulder Running schemes

These sections of motorway are like the controlled motorways in that they keep the hard shoulder to the nearside. They differ though in that this can be opened in times of congestion and these too have ERA.  When traffic flow is high gantry signs over the hard shoulder light up to encourage hard shoulder

use and a speed limit appear over the hard shoulder indicating that it can be used as a running lane.

What Happens If I Ignore The Signs?

Cameras over the gantry, detect speeding vehicles and fines are sent to the address of the registered owner.  Anyone caught speeding in these zones like on any other road, faces a £100 fine and 3 penalty points on their licence.  Anyone ignoring the Red X over the lane they are in also faces the same penalty. A Red X means that this lane is closed and drivers should not proceed any further in this lane. If they do they could strike a vehicle broken down or a worker/member of the public broken down. This obviously could lead to imprisonment.

Hopefully, this has lead you to be a little Smarter on SMART motorways. These are here to stay and should help all of our journeys flow just that bit easier in our increasingly congested society.

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