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Smart Motorways - Get The Knowledge

Motorway variable speed signs

So smart motorways are becoming more common and certainly being talked about more.

So what exactly are they and how do they work?!

Smart motorways are part of a government scheme – where the hard shoulder is used by vehicles as a running lane and the flow of traffic is controlled by variable speed limits – and are becoming increasingly common place throughout England.

Highways England (previously the Highways Agency) has developed smart motorways to increase motorway capacity and reduce congestion in a way that minimises environmental impact, cost and time to construct by avoiding the need to build additional lanes. There are three types of scheme which are classed as smart motorways – controlled motorway, dynamic hard shoulder running and all lane running.

More than 1,000 motorists a week are being caught speeding on the UK’s smart motorways, police figures suggest. Between 2014/15, on the M1 between junction 10-13 over 10,000 fines were handed out! 52,516 fixed penalties were issued on 11 smart sections, including on stretches of the M1, M25 and M6.

This compared to only 2,023 on the same stretches in 2010-11, before they were upgraded to smart motorways - which use the hard shoulder and variable speed limits to control traffic flow.

The government says they are used to improve capacity, not generate revenue. No surprise there.

Smart motorways are operated by Highways England, which uses overhead gantries - also containing speed cameras - to direct traffic into open lanes and change speed limits depending on the volume of traffic.

Currently there are more than 236 miles of smart motorways in England and a further 200 miles of smart motorways are currently either planned or under construction.

Top view of the motorway