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What Are Smart Motorways And Why Are They Controversial?

A recent controversy has emerged in the haulage equipment world regarding the nature of the roads many HGVs drive on.

With the Department for Transport pausing its smart motorway roll-out, there has been a range of responses with the Road Haulage Association welcoming the rethink whilst others are concerned about increased congestion.

Smart motorways, sometimes known as managed motorways are a section of a motorway that uses a variety of active management methods to increase capacity and reduce congestion in busy areas when needed.

Typically this takes the form of variable speed limits to manage traffic in the case of congestion or a traffic incident, variable lanes including opening the hard shoulder up to driving, and digital signage and alerts to keep drivers informed as to the state of the motorway.

This takes the form of either dynamic motorways, where the hard shoulder is opened up at certain times and all-lane running where outside of emergencies the hard shoulder is always open, with emergency refuge areas available.

The aim is to add capacity without the expense and delays caused by construction work, however, concerns have been raised about their effectiveness at reducing congestion and their potential dangers.

The hard shoulder is needed to ensure that people on the always-moving motorway have a safe place to stop their vehicle in case of an incident or a breakdown, and by reducing this or by allowing the hard shoulder to sometimes be used for ordinary travel, it increases the risk of accidents.

Another consequence is breakdown services and emergency services would take longer to reach an incident due to not being able to use the hard shoulder.

A series of Freedom of Information Act requests in early 2020 found that 38 deaths had been attributed to incidents caused by all-lane running, with a 2000% increase in near-misses.

The government announced increased funding for safety features on smart motorways, an increase in stopping places that need to be within a mile of each other, and five years worth of safety data needs to be gathered before any more schemes are accepted.

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