back to article UK government scraps smart motorway plans, cites high costs and low public confidence

The UK government has canceled all plans for new smart motorways, citing "cost pressures" and a lack of public confidence in the tech-enhanced highway stretches. The announcement from the government earlier today said 11 smart motorways scheduled for construction between 2020 and 2025 that were previously paused won't be built …

  1. Spamfast

    Well, I am so not a fan of Mr Sunak, a corrupt self-serving politico. But shutting down the idea of a) making motorways more dangerous and b) expanding our addiction to CO₂ gets my approval. The UK government (of whichever stripe) talks about the climate but still spends way more of our money on fossil fuel guzzling projects than ones that will mitigate the problem, generate jobs & revenue and make our environments better places in which to live.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      >But shutting down the idea of a) making motorways more dangerous and b) expanding our addiction to CO₂ gets my approval

      You misunderstand. the hard-shoulder is still going to be used, they are just removing the "smart" bit.

      If you aren't driving a BMW MRAP and somebody hits you - it's your fault for being a poor

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

        Not quite the impression I got.

        Current all lane running might remain, but there would be no new conversions, was how it seems to me.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "Current all lane running might remain"

          That's pretty well what YAAC said, isn't it?

        2. AlbertH
          Big Brother

          Fortunately, the hard shoulders are to be reinstated and the "smart" nonsense to to be ditched. It's been a disaster, and now we're saddled with endless electromobiles running out of charge at awkward times, the sooner the better!

          Fortunately also, the electromobile nonsense is also going to end since the "Greens" have finally realised that they're not "Green Vehicles" at all, and are in fact significantly less "green" than a conventional petrol-powered car!

          This is just the first part of the roll back of the "Net Zero" claptrap. The UK isn't going to cripple itself for the supposed benefit of not using fossil fuels.

          1. codejunky Silver badge


            "This is just the first part of the roll back of the "Net Zero" claptrap. The UK isn't going to cripple itself for the supposed benefit of not using fossil fuels."

            I wish I had your faith, I can only hope the UK rolls back before its too late.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @AlbertH

              "Tufton Street calling, Tufton Street calling ... !"

    2. David Black

      Er, I thought we'd moved to hating cars for new reasons

      As an owner of a lovely 100% solar fueled EV (go on nitpick over the rare earths and construction) it does irk a little that folks always associate cars with pollution. As someone with limited mobility, life would be insufferable without a car and I probably wouldn't be able to contribute my many of tens of thousands of tax revenues every year. Some of us actually want a car and to be considerate about it's impact.

      Smart motorways are just mostly insufferably dumb, poorly implemented with decades of of date technology staffed by Crapita minimum wage folks. All the profits go in the construction and there's thin pickings in the preventing people being wiped out in the operation. Flip that around a little and incintivise saving lives and deploymoent of the latest technology on a constant basis and we might actually progress.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Er, I thought we'd moved to hating cars for new reasons

        Smart motorways are just mostly insufferably dumb

        "Getting rid of the difficult bit in the title. Other candidates include the Online Safety Bill.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The UK government (of whichever stripe) talks about the climate but still spends way more of our money on fossil fuel guzzling projects than ones that will mitigate the problem,

      Around my way, the local bus company decided to stop the services that many children took to go to school. Then the council complained about increased congestion on the roads and want drivers to pay to drive around town.

      Is it really that hard to see cause and effect here?

      1. lglethal Silver badge

        Cause: Government reduces funding to bus services.

        Result: Less bus services, more money for the government to piss away elsewhere, more congestion.

        Reaction: Council introduces congestion charge

        Result: Council has more money to piss away elsewhere.

        Extra Result: Government reduces funding for Council as they now have another source of revenue. more money for the government to piss away elsewhere.

        From a Government point of view, it's a definite win-win situation...

        1. tip pc Silver badge

          don't forget all that money the councils and government is pissing away is OUR money, OUR as in tax payers and not OUR as in the council or governments.

    4. codejunky Silver badge


      "The UK government (of whichever stripe) talks about the climate but still spends way more of our money on fossil fuel guzzling projects"

      Should they follow that councils example and buy electric vehicles then pay for land to store them because they are no use?

  2. AndrueC Silver badge

    Variable speed limits seems like a good idea to me but getting rid of the hard shoulder never did. As well as the obvious risks of broken down vehicles and idiots not paying attention even normal running seems risky. My experience of driving on the M42 is that fairly soon after encouraging us to use the hard shoulder there will be a sign stating that it's for the next junction only. I'm not going to keep ducking in then moving back out because changing lanes is one of the most dangerous things you can do and at busy times you might struggle to even get back out before the junction.

    Keep the variable speeds but restore the hard shoulders.

    If there are capacity problems then motorists just need to adapt. They should change their journey time or find alternative transport (and the government could help out here by ensuring that it's fit for purpose). I love driving but we should have stopped pandering to the motorist years ago. A lot of car journeys are not necessary and are inefficient due to low vehicle occupancy.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "If there are capacity problems then motorists just need to adapt"

      Best to tackle the problem at cause. Heavy traffic is a consequence of years of planning that concentrated employment in city centres to the extent that each centre requires more than 1000 sq miles surrounding it to accommodate the people who work there. Until that's dealt with complaining about traffic is simply victim blaming.

      1. YetAnotherLocksmith Silver badge

        Remote work has already solved the problem! Combine that with the massive numbers of people no longer able to go to work due to covid, and you can see how the problem solved itself already.

        HS2 is cancelled except for the bungs, too, for the same reason.

        Policies costing ££££££ from 20+ years ago that haven't/barely been started yet, and meanwhile, we have finally installed broadband to most houses, and the rest have bought mobile phones!

        The world has changed.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "changing lanes is one of the most dangerous things you can do"

      No, it really isn't. It may be for inexperienced or inattentive drivers or during rush hour, but it's a lot safer changing lanes on a motorway than on most other types of roads for most of the time.

      I suspect this mantra is one of the reason so many idiots on the motorway don't follow the Highway Code rule of keeping left unless overtaking and sit in lanes 2 or 3 even when there's a a clear half mile or more of space back in lane 1. Those same people are also the ones most likely to NOT get up to the speed of the lane they change into when overtaking too so we end up with lane 1 almost empty, lane 2 going a little faster than the HGVs and lane 3 doing about 60-65 and far more congested than lane 1.

      Oh and one last point THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS A FUCKING "LORRY LANE"!!!! (Saw a car+caravan just last week being undertaken by an HGV who was in lane 1 and doing a proper 56mph. Car+caravan driver still couldn't work out what he was doing wrong or even that he was in the wrong)

      Thanks, I feel better now. (I never let my rage out while on the road. It's much nicer to do it from the comfort of my armchair - current car, 250,000 miles accident free, ie none from new. Ditto for the million+ miles total in previous cars :-))

      1. martinusher Silver badge

        Customs vary from country to country. In Germany you'll get heavied for hanging out in the #1 lane. Here in California you'll find people overtaking on both sides plus motorcycles lane splitting. I don't regard one as any more unsafe than the other. (Recently had a crack at a freeway in Buenos Aires -- all the Fun of the Freeway without any seeming lane discipline. But it somehow worked.)

        I think one reason why the Smart Motorway is a dud is that it doesn't really do much for you. Ramp meters are common here and while they help congestion they don't solve it. We have automatic stalled vehicle detection -- its called a traffic jam -- and the solution isn't a computer saying "road congested", its a nimble tow truck that can get in there and get the stalled vehicle out as quickly as possible, no questions asked. Cameras are redundant as are traffic sensors since you can tell how traffic's moving from how all those cellphones are moving (works for surface streets as well). Smart Roads are just a nice idea from a decade or so back, an idea that's music to technology companys' ears but otherwise useless.


        Again, YMMV. There probably isn't in the UK but then a Major Motorway is too thin to have one. You don't really have the gradients either. But there are places where they're used and we even have special junctions for truck traffic. All a really nice idea at the time but of dubious value. The only thing is, though, trucks like to stay in lane and they prefer to travel at a constant speed so their drivers really like it when you accommodate them.

        1. YetAnotherLocksmith Silver badge

          I definitely agree with you saying the technology is outdated. These days, a handful of Bluetooth devices scanning traffic passing below can give solid speed indicators passively, without hundreds of cameras and operators.

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            A Bluetooth device could scan the speed of traffic below, what would anyone do with that data unless there was a camera somewhere capturing the number plate?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Google and al. will be happy to provide you with the name of the offender, as well as his sexual orientation, last 1000 purchases on, all this for a very small convenience fee.

      2. YetAnotherLocksmith Silver badge

        Except that it definitely is far more dangerous to change lanes, than to not change lanes, on a motorway.

        I've done double the miles you have, at least. You will one day realise when talking about actions on a motorway, you have to be talking about the motorway, not some other road as "whataboutery".

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "Except that it definitely is far more dangerous to change lanes, than to not change lanes, on a motorway."

          And after saying that you bring in "whataboutary"? It's safer to not drive at all than to drive on a motorway is as valid as your statement and just as useful.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        That's in the UK, but in Spain lorries can only use the outside and second line and must not travel at the start and end of the holiday periods when everyone is setting out and coming back. Simple rules but they improve safety more than "smart" motorways.

        1. You aint sin me, roit

          It's the UK too. Lorries aren't allowed in the overtaking lane on 3 Lane motorways.

          And there are local areas where on 2 lane motorways they are restricted to one lane at peak times. For instance the 2 lane section of the M11 as it goes through a hilly region, and approaching the end of the A14 before it merges into the M1 and M6.

          1. Caver_Dave Silver badge

            "approaching the end of the A14 before it merges into the M1 and M6."

            What finally tipped the introduction of that was a Police Car with 'Blues and Twos' that was stuck behind a pair of lorries between the Naseby bridge and Rothwell (about 8 miles) - one would go slightly faster uphill and the other slightly faster downhill, resulting in them being side-by-side for that complete distance.

            Icon, because I know that area in minute detail and one of the Police Officers in the afore mentioned car.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              And the lorry drivers still ignore it.

            2. Roland6 Silver badge

              Your thinking about the east bound section.heading away from the M1/M6 junction.

          2. M_W

            The A42/M42 is also no overtaking for quite a long distance between Measham and the M1 junction.

            Range Rover wankpanzers with personal plates towing double-axle caravans are also not allowed in the overtaking lane (in fact, no car & caravan combo is, but I saw mostly wankpanzers with them recently).

            Doesn't stop them from overtaking in lane 3 though even though it's illegal, as I caught on my dashcam at the weekend on the M1 more than once.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              And 60mph speed limit applies to them rather than 70mph as they are towing, but you wouldn't know that from looking at them.

      4. tiggity Silver badge

        @John Brown (no body)

        I drive a 1 litre engine car (well, just under 1000cc actually*) - and I can say lane change is dangerous for me because a car like mine has poor acceleration and there can be huge speed differences across lanes (on non camera motorways especially, where 70 can be greatly exceeded) - if you don't have poor acceleration then lane change is a lot easier and safer.

        * Happily I don't use Motorway much as try & keep carbon footprint down (hence small car & limited travel - no EV as mark-up on those takes them out of budget range compared to much lower cost of "second-hand" petrol cars)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          get a bigger engine.

          Bad news for you your 1litre with a turbo is making more CO2 than a bigger non-turbo or even a bigger engine with a turbo.

          It's due to having to rely on turbo all the time.

          1. ArrZarr Silver badge

            You're assuming that tiny engine has a tubro. My first car had a mere 1238cm3 engine displacement with no turbo, just a bog-standard early 2000s inline 4. Even that 93hp beast had more power than a bottom-of-the range Hyundai with 67hp and I don't think it's possible to get a mere 67hp out of a turbo engine without trying to screw yourself.

            1. John Robson Silver badge

              merely 1.2?

              800cc used to be common.

              I far prefer having an electric motor though, just need more small cars now that the technology is well established (but as your "mere 1238" comment shows that's a long standing issue)

              1. ArrZarr Silver badge

                'Twas a beast indeed. The fact that the car weighed under a ton before people got in helped the gutsy little bugger no end though.

        2. nijam Silver badge

          > ... keep carbon footprint down

          Actually, steady speed driving on a motorwary is more economical than stop/start (or slow-down/speed-up) driving that you find on many roads. All other things being equal, of course.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            steady speed driving on a motorwary is more economical than stop/start

            . Which was one of the aims of smart motorways.

          2. John Robson Silver badge

            Depends hugely on the speed.

            Steady 60 mph is more efficient than varying between 50 and 70, but will be less efficient than varying between 30 and 50 (assuming sane acceleration profiles and good regen where possible).

      5. wintergirl

        Lane 1 has a line of HGVs doing 56mph, lane 2 has a single bloke in an HGV doing 56.0001mph because he wants to get to Lutterworth a millisecond faster and lane 3 has all the Teslas and BMWs

        1. katrinab Silver badge

          Lane 1 has a line of HGVs doing 55.9234 mph (90 km/h, the EU speed limit). Lane 2 has a single HGV doing 56 mph, the UK speed limit ...

        2. Alex Stuart

          > lane 3 has all the Teslas and BMWs

          Almost all of the bad boyz switched from BMW to Audi over the past half decade.

          Try doing a mere 75mph in the outside lane and see how long it takes to see those four rings in the rearview mirror. It's comically predictable.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            They are normally too close for you to see the rings (at least the ones on the front of their car)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              I was stopped at a junction and could hear a siren but couldn't see anything. After a while I realised that the siren was from the unmarked police car behind me. It had stopped so close to me so as to obscure its blue lights.

              And the claim they've been on advanced driving courses. No Effing chance they have.

      6. AndrueC Silver badge

        It may be for inexperienced or inattentive drivers or during rush hour, ...

        All you've said there is that it isn't dangerous if it's done properly. Well no aspect of driving is dangerous if it's done properly. There are a lot of inattentive drivers (and probably quite a few inexperienced drivers) in rush hour. Thus in practice changing lanes on any road is dangerous.

        it's a lot safer changing lanes on a motorway than on most other types of roads for most of the time.

        As above ('most of the time', lol), it's still a dangerous thing to do.

        "A study report [17] stated that the action of changing lanes is one of the highly frequent sources of crashes in the United States. Accordingly, the official statistics estimated that at least 33% of all road crashes happen as vehicles alter lanes or turn off the road. Furthermore, crash data recorded from 2010 to 2017 in Middle East countries indicate that sudden lane changes produced about 17.0% of the total serious accidents, followed by speeding (12.8%) [18,19]."

        For an experienced driver, paying attention a lane change is not dangerous. But how many drivers using the M42 during rush hour fit that description?

        It's more dangerous than staying in the same lane so should not be encouraged

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          All you've done is show what happens in a different culture with different rules and otherwise agree with me, which is nice :-)

          "Well no aspect of driving is dangerous if it's done properly."

          Correct (barring mechanical failures, black ice etc). And that is the point. There are stupid, ignorant and inattentive drivers (some are all three!) out there, most of whom spent significant amounts of money for lessons to pass a test, significantly more money for a car, tax, insurance etc., and somehow forget how to drive properly one they passed the driving test. That's entirely their fault and more of them getting tickets, licence points and even bans, the better.

      7. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The danger is coming up behind a lorry - that you can't see in front of, so can't see the traffic braking far ahead, so the lorry might slam on it's air brakes out of the blue - while having to keep an almost constant eye on the mirror, trying to judge the speed of vehicles in the adjacent lane, when frequently it is so busy it takes a long time for enough of a gap to appear to pull out into, so you're looking in the mirror an unhealthily-long time. Meanwhile you're slowing - like for instance some arctic up ahead is going uphill - while the cars in the next lane are going as fast as ever, so you're looking at pulling out and stamping on the gas to get up to speed before the car behind is spooked, if not actually rear-ending you. You have to simultaneously look intently in the mirror, trying to judge the speed and distance of the vehicle you think you might be able to pull out in front of, weighing that up, and watching the proximity of the lorry in front you're closing on - why, after all, you want to overtake - ready to react in a split second if its brake lights come on, and preparing yourself to accelerate hard when you do pull out.

        You might say that, in that situation the responsible thing to do is stay behind the lorry; but that still involves the driving while almost constantly looking in the mirror, behind the lorry you can't see in front of, that might drop it's superior anchor at any moment (or be gradually decelerating - and into whose slipstream you might enter causing you to accelerate without consciously choosing to).

        To which you might say, and might as well say, to just stay behind the lorry and don't even consider changing lanes. After all, if you maintain a safe braking distance, you'll get a partial view of the traffic up ahead. Of course, someone always pulls into the gap you left - in the leftmost lane, usually for taking the upcoming exit, or because the driver, anxious to appear law-abiding, keeps overtaking then returning to that lane, so that instead of an almost straight line, they drive the motorways zig-zagging the entire length, not only multiplying their own opportunities to make a mistake, but adding another potential distraction for everyone else on the road..

        Driving in the slow lane, behind the arctics, is about as safe as driving on the hard shoulder: that is, theoretically. Or, perhaps, hypothetically, given that it requires driving behaviour so rarely seen as to be the exception. It isn't that motorway driving is high risk if you don't follow the Highway Code to the letter; but because 'people'. Mostly, imho, people who don't do their utmost to see what's happening in the distance rather than just what the vehicle immediately in front is doing - while not having safe braking distance, i.e. having insufficient awareness, doing insufficient forward planning. And the worst lane for that is the one with the arctics in.

        The answer is not 'follow the Highway Code', a suggestion that in the absense of evidence of compliance looks like petulance. The answer - short of electric vehicles remotely controlled by some track beneath the road - is making the test an advanced driving course. Which I can't see ever happening.

        I tend to avoid the motorways.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          And so you should avoid the motorways, if it's all too taxing for you and you can't anticipate the need to move out.

        2. wintergirl

          If you can't see past the lorry, and you can't react in time if the lorry brakes suddenly, you're too close to the lorry. Hang back.

      8. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

        "lorry lane"

        And you never, never drive in Lane 1 of a "smart" motorway. As that is where the broken-down vehicles that can't reach a refuge that is up to a mile away are stuck, possibly with no lights.

        So here am I, trundling along in Lane 2, and I don't care how many numpties undertake me in Lane 1, instead of using Lanes 3 and 4. Sorry, I don't want to risk death every time I use a motorway.

        I notice that whilst no more new ones will be created, the existing ones will continue to be run in 4-lane mode, instead of permanently switching on the "no way" sign in lane 1. Even with (allegedly) more refuges, they are still death-traps and car-ruiners. Ever had to drive to the next refuge on a flat tyre that might have been repairable, instead of having to drive a mile on it and need to replace both the tyre and the wheel?

        1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

          Re: "lorry lane"

          You need to drive one of these, nobody will bother you and even when in lane 1 you won't notice any stopped car...

      9. Roland6 Silver badge

        ”changing lanes is one of the most dangerous things you can do"

        No, it really isn't.

        From the context, the original poster was talking about on a congested motorway. Although even on a flowing motorway, care needs to be exercised; the number of times I’ve been flashed by a idiot undertaking everyone at speed and thus getting upset when those wanting to exit cut them up…

    3. katrinab Silver badge

      I very quickly learned to only use the left hand lane if I'm actually leaving at the next junction, and be a middle-lane driver the rest of the time.

    4. Libertarian Voice

      Oxymoron alert

      The variable speed limits are the problem simply because they cause the problem managed motorways we're supposed to resolve. Drivers tend to slam on when they notice a limit change and that is what causes accumulative braking.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Oxymoron alert

        So never used the M42 before the variable speed limit?

        The problem with the M1 variable speed limit is that the sections are too long. On the M42 for most of the time you can see several overhead signs and so can better gauge the conditions.

  3. cornetman Silver badge

    These new motorways without a hard shoulder to fly to in an emergency scare the shit out of me to be honest.

    Traveling down towards Birmingham during heavy traffic hours on the M6 makes me really twitchy and as a point of protest, I *never* use the leftmost lane when it is "available" to drive on. Whoever thought that it was a good idea really needs shooting.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >Whoever thought that it was a good idea really needs shooting.

      But only after they have been held accountable for the deaths and waste of public money they have caused.........

      Must be the most bizarrely stupid idea anyone could think of - taking the emergency lane out of our busiest and most congested sections of motorway.

      And then fitting emergency laybys, every mile or so, expecting that an incapacitated car could go for a mile, not to mention the idocy of uphill sections having no laybys at all on the uphill section until you reach the top....

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        The existing ones don't even meet the spec

        The distance between the refuge areas is often far longer than the original legislation allowed. It got amended to allow the greater distance without any noticeable consultation or scrutiny.

        Like many (most?) drivers, I do not use the left-hand lane on all-lane-running motorway segments because it's 'ing dangerous to do so. I do not want to have to decide what to crash into because the signs took 15 minutes to update.

        I'll only enter that lane when approaching my exit, or in traffic jams when nobody is doing more than 20mph if they're lucky.

        I've noticed that most drivers treat it as an HGV crawler lane - and of course, very few cars can save the rear passengers in an impact from a lorry.

        I've also noticed that nobody stays in their broken-down car anymore. They always clear out and climb the barrier - because they're terrified.

        The implication is of course that the statistics on SMALR collision rates and consequences are extremely skewed in their favour, because they ignore the human behaviour.

        1. Yet Another Hierachial Anonynmous Coward

          Re: The existing ones don't even meet the spec

          Even on the hard shoulder you are supposed to leave the car and get behind the barrier. No one suggests anyone should stay in the car when it is broken down on a motorway. I have no idea what you are supposed to do if you are disabled, limited mobility, etc.

          And does anyone in the UK other than a few lorries ever use the left lane anyway? It seems to be an inbuilt psyche of almost everyone that you are supposed to drive in the middle lane utterly unaware of anything going on around or behind you.. I even know of some people who passed their test and their instructor told them to "just get in the middle lane and stay there until you need to turn off". If you ever drive somewhere like Holland, Belgium or Germany, where folks seem to know how to overtake and pull back in (even BMW's!) it's quite eye opening to come back to the UK and see just how lazy and sloppy folks are. If you are in any of the above countries, within 100 miles or so of one of the ports, and you see a car ahead sitting in the middle or third lane it is almost a always a UK registered car.

          I'm fairly sure we can easily increase the capacity and throughput of UK motorways if we actually taught/encouraged people to use them properly.

          1. hplasm
            Thumb Up

            Re: The existing ones don't even meet the spec


          2. David 132 Silver badge

            Re: The existing ones don't even meet the spec

            >It seems to be an inbuilt psyche of almost everyone that you are supposed to drive in the middle lane utterly unaware of anything going on around or behind you

            "CLOGgers" as the Police apparently refer to them... "Centre Lane Owners' Group".

            1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

              Re: The existing ones don't even meet the spec

              Some years ago a traffic police friend pointed out that the half-life of a car on the hard shoulder is about twelve minutes before someone drives an HGV into it. Stay in the car, or even on the same side of the barrier as the traffic, is not a wise move...

            2. You aint sin me, roit

              Re: The existing ones don't even meet the spec

              Also known as Volvo drivers.

              The best thing about the 4 lane A1M going north to Peterborough is the confused Volvo drivers with no middle lane to occupy...

            3. Fr. Ted Crilly Silver badge

              Re: The existing ones don't even meet the spec

              As opposed to the 'crap pullers out without giving it enough thought/observation' pillocks then

          3. RockBurner

            Re: The existing ones don't even meet the spec

            "we actually taught/encouraged people to use them properly."

            A laudable goal, the issue is that if you put mandatory motorway training into the driving test and syllabus, then how to people who live a long way from any motorway pass their test? EG residents of the Scottish Islands (which is the official example used).

            That's not my argument.. that's the official stance.

            1. Major N

              Re: The existing ones don't even meet the spec

              How long til you pass your test in a simulator? GTA4 should do :P

          4. Fr. Ted Crilly Silver badge

            Re: The existing ones don't even meet the spec

            No not quite, French Belgian, Dutch behaviour is more like: here i am in the right hand lane a there is a slow thing i'm approaching, i'll drive up to its arse, sit there for a bit, being disciplined in my lane, get frustrated and just pull out where there is a smell of a big enough gap... remember they used to have pulling out priority and old habits persisit.

            On the other hand, the faster traffic also has a nice habit of i'm here and i'm staying here and keeping close enough to the motor in front to keep you stuck behind the slow moving camion etc...

            See the problem? it's the people not the 'not in the real world' rules that don't reflect people if we all followed the rules and were perfect drivers....... nope, thought so.

          5. David Hicklin Bronze badge

            Re: The existing ones don't even meet the spec

            > "just get in the middle lane and stay there until you need to turn off"

            Also known as "Middle Lane Morons" or MLM's, there used to be a website dedicated to them , can't find it now tho

          6. Helcat

            Re: The existing ones don't even meet the spec

            "And does anyone in the UK other than a few lorries ever use the left lane anyway?"

            Yes: I'm one of those who actually learned how to drive properly on a Motorway and still tries to do so. Interestingly I do see people driving properly on the motorways, using the left most lane and... NOT SPEEDING! I know - it's hard to believe, but it's true! Just have to avoid rush hour to witness it is all (then again, during rush hour, it's impossible to speed as you're lucky to hit 20mph so there is that...)

            That said: I'm very much aware of people being told to get into the middle lane and stay there by a spouse/parent/other person who doesn't know, or doesn't care, that this is wrong in the UK.

            I'm also aware of police who delight in catching such people and fining them. Some do it via overhead cameras, some in person.

            However, due to the large number of lorries in the left most lane at most times, there's a view that driving in the left most lane isn't possible because there's no space, so sticking in the second lane (normally the middle) allows for better traffic flow as you're always overtaking and you should avoid changing lanes unless necessary. They then just... forget to use the left lane when it is otherwise empty for a spell. They also seem to wait to the last possible moment to cut across multiple lanes to take their exit rather than to plan ahead like sensible people.

            Now, some years back, if you went on the M5 and sat in the middle lane doing 50mph, you'd find an 18 wheeler behind you blaring its horn to get you out of the middle lane. Even at 55 this would happen. At 60, it'd be an Audi or Merc. At 70 it'd be a police car. At 80 it would be the police car with lights and sirens on. Oh, I do miss my regular commute up and down the M5...

          7. nijam Silver badge

            Re: The existing ones don't even meet the spec

            > ... if we actually taught/encouraged people to use them properly.

            So not at all, then.

    2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Whoever thought that it was a good idea really needs shooting.

      No - just leave them in a car on the left-most lane of a Dumb Motorway - they can then get to experience the consequences of their decisions

    3. wintergirl

      I was on a "smart" section of the M1 with no hard shoulder the other day and there was some poor sod sitting stationary in the left-most lane in a defunct Land Rover. It was quite some distance to the next lay-by and there was no lane closure X displayed, no warning. Luckily, it wasn't especially busy, I saw the vehicle in plenty of time, changed lane and passed without drama. But it only takes one idiot fiddling with the phone, the radio, arguing with their kids/passenger/whatever (and we all see them every time we go on the motorway) and it would very easily be a different story.

      I keep my car serviced and maintained so I'm not generally leaving the house assuming I'm going to break down, and I'm still terrified of driving on this type of motorway - if something did go wrong with my car on the road, there's a very much non-zero chance of being ploughed into from behind by white van man faffing with his phone, and then it's goodnight.

    4. NeilPost

      It was never a good idea, it was cheaper than building a proper 4th lane. That was the only driver for this. Everything else is smart-washing.

      1. David Hicklin Bronze badge

        > it was cheaper than building a proper 4th lane.

        If they keep on building more refuges as promised then they might as well join them up....and call it a hard shoulder

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      so your one of the fucking idiots in the wrong lane.

      get to the left you dimwit

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        All the drivers in the UK are in the wrong lane.

        Civilized drivers drive on the right!

    6. MJI Silver badge

      M5 the same, nearly empty MWay so stuck to real lane 1 at around 70 and an idiot doing around 90-100 zooms up the inside of me on the hard shoulder lane because I refused to use it.

      There were two lanes to my right, pity no broken down HGV for them to decorate.

      Quite a few years I have had a blow out before at speed, I WANT A HARD SHOULDER!

      That time I parked on a Police car ramp for extra safety (right front).

    7. Peter2 Silver badge

      These new motorways without a hard shoulder to fly to in an emergency scare the shit out of me to be honest.

      Me too.

      I've actually had a tyre blow when on an A road and have had to come to an abrupt and unscheduled stop. I was able to pull off the road far enough that the left wheels were in the gravel, and the right wheels were just on the tarmac outside the white line where the edge of the road was. Unsurprisingly, nobody hit me or my car, and I was quite happy changing the tyre myself there and then as even a criminally inattentive driver (using their phone etc) could reasonably be expected to remain on the road.

      If that'd have happened on a smart motorway then I suspect that my vehicle would have been destroyed and my chances of surviving the experience would have been considerably less, and that's nothing short of scandalous.

      Who authorised the crash barriers on a "smart" motorway to be built literally right up to the edge of the tarmac, and why? Driving along these motorways my impression is that there is plenty enough room for a car to get off the road in many places if the crash barriers didn't box you in.

      It's almost as if the entire scheme was devised by a set of people who don't drive and rarely (if ever) leave the confines of the M25.

  4. Harfud

    This is not about smart motorways, it's an easy to implement measure against something that most people do not like so as to increase the governments popularity before the next election.

    1. pPPPP

      I wouldn't even go that far. It's just an excuse not to spend money they don't want to / can't spend. They care as little for the motorist as they do anyone else.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "I wouldn't even go that far. It's just an excuse not to spend money they don't want to / can't spend."

        The whole stupid idea started out as a money-saving exercise. More lanes were needed but adding them by buying up more land was expensive. Just relabel what's already there, it'll be cheaper...

        Of course, unless you really do feasibility studies before making the decisions it never seems to work out as expected. Isn't that odd?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          It wasn't just a money saving exercise - it was both a money AND time saving exercise as motorway extensions often involve significant disruption and multiple years to complete.

          Given the improvements in UK motorway safety over the last 20 years and the need to cope with increased traffic levels, the data likely supported the case for rapid capacity expansion while reducing overall motorway safety given the relative levels of safety versus neighbouring countries (only slightly behind Nordic countries and ahead of most other European countries)

          Post-pandemic, the reduced traffic levels don't justify the public backlash against their usage/expansion so we revert to the slower upgrade process until traffic levels justify a return to "smart motorways" with new branding in the future.

          In an ideal world, there would have been a bigger push for working from home instead of more "less safe" roads, but I guess you take what you can get....

          1. wintergirl

            Working from home

            They can't be seen to support working from home, because all the retired people sitting at home reading the Daily Mail's columns complaining about "shirking from home" (also written from home) would kick off

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Woodnag recognition of the current lack of public confidence

        Exactly. No money for it. The BS "in recognition of the current lack of public confidence" is ignored about passing on everyone's NHS data to Palantir, innit.

    2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      increase the governments popularity before the next election

      Easy - The PM advises the monarch to exercise the royal prerogative to dissolve parliament and call an election

  5. Binraider Silver badge

    Cancelling the new ones is a start. We also need to return the ones already modified to normal.

    Cancelling stuff is also a very easy way to govern by press release, something we have gotten used to with the current round of incumbents.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      It's stuff we got used to a very long time ago.

  6. stiine Silver badge

    "adding ramp metering."

    Which costs much more, in the short term, than teaching people how to drive, and fining/banning those that can't.

    1. theblackhand

      Re: "adding ramp metering."

      Having worked in IT long enough to see multiple generations of OS/applications, it always surprises me when people on El Reg suggest teaching/training/changing peoples habits as the low cost option.

      In large companies, a large portion of the group will adapt with or without training but a statistically significant portion (lets say 20% based on the 80:20 rule) are resistant to change even after multiple training sessions or require workarounds (i.e. upper management where PA's manage the majority of their communication).

      Applying that to the UK driving population of ~40 million (or ~32 million if you reduce it to drivers using vehicles at least weekly) that is a sizeable group to change without significant cost/effort (i.e. retesting every 10 years would likely cost drivers £200m/year assuming a similar cost to obtaining a license and the cost of individuals time versus alternative activities being around ~£50/renewal) and while I have no doubt there would be some benefits to this around better driver behaviour, studies of post-license driver education from multiple countries have shown very little benefit in terms of accident reduction.

      The reality is that there have been significant improvements in vehicle safety and road engineering over the last 10 years in the UK (21% reduction between 2009 and 2019 or 24% reduction between 2011 and 2021 but COVID impacted the 2011-2021 figures) even with ~2% annual usage growth over those periods

      1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

        Re: "adding ramp metering."

        a very old problem...

        - Amonbofis! You have to change the water of the crocodiles, it's an infection.

        - Ah, I don't smell anything. No, but I installed the waste water drain like we always do.

        - That's the problem with you, Amonbofis, you always do what we do.

        - Yes, well, we've always done it that way...

  7. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

    "Although available data shows smart motorways are comparatively the safest roads in the country in terms of fatality rates"

    Ah, government spokespeople. Safest roads, not safest motorways. This shouldn't be a surprise as motorways, per mile driven are safer than, say, Hyde Park Corner.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As an aside

    Is it only the UK that outlaws “undertaking”?

    It’s legal here in Oz, and widely used as a tactic to get past lane hoggers..

    Relax now, it’s just a question!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As an aside

      I think it's the same in most (if not all) European countries. Also the US?

    2. lglethal Silver badge

      Re: As an aside

      Are you sure it's legal in Aus? It's been more then 20 years since I had to take my test, but I'm pretty certain I dont remember it being allowed. I mean Aus has all those signs on the highways saying "Keep Left unless Overtaking". Which I would take to imply that your not supposed to undertake from the left hand lane.

      But like I said, it's been a while...

      1. Atomic Duetto


        It’s legal.

        Drivers are allowed to overtake on the left on all multi-lane roads.

        Queensland / Australia. (

        On multi-lane roads, if the posted speed limit is 90km/h or more, or if the road has a ‘keep left unless overtaking’ sign, you must not drive in the right-hand lane unless you are: overtaking, etc.

        1. lglethal Silver badge

          Re: Roadragingwankers

          Well Queensland has always been a bit "special"... ;)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As an aside

      Yes, legal in Aus when…

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As an aside

      It is illegal, however, I'm just waiting for the first person (with dashcam to prove that they have) followed a car with an empty lane on the left, then undertaken and been pulled over by the Police. It would make an interesting case in court (hopefully a motoring organisation will fund it).

      Are you totally wrong to break the law to pass someone who is breaking the law and causing a danger to the other road users?

      You have waited 1/2 mile to prove that the person had no intention to follow the Highway Code and pull over.

      Their ignorance/arrogance by not following the law is causing unnecessary congestion.

      Congestion is dangerous.

      You are avoiding a dangerous situation caused by the other person by undertaking them.

      The undertaking is in itself not dangerous as the person has shown that they are not willing to pull into your lane.

      Anon as I get pissed off by the terrible driving I see everywhere, and judging by the comments above, some of it is by other commentards.

    5. MJI Silver badge

      Re: As an aside

      I remember doing it twice.

      Many years ago I was cruising up lane 1 in low 60s due to rain, passed an outside lane hogger doing arou mid 50s

      More recently towing in lane 1 at slightly over towing speed, but under mway speed, passed a MLOC going slightly slower with a Police car watching, as I was not allowed in lane 3.

  9. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Smart Motorways, dumb drivers.

    The problem with "Smart" motorways is that drivers don't obey the red "X" indicating "Lane Closed". If the government implemented a policy where if you drive through a red "X" sign, your car is crushed, that would soon educate people about the rules of the road.

    1. Insert sadsack pun here

      Re: Smart Motorways, dumb drivers.

      If you drive in a lane that has a red "X" sign above it, there's a fair chance your car is going to be crushed by the stationary HGV 300 metres ahead of you...

  10. Hubert Thrunge Jr.

    Statistics show that Smart Motorways are safer per mile travelled than any other type of road in the UK.

    The issue as with all roads is the people who drive on it.

    People say "I won't drive on the Smart Motorway because it doesn't have a hard shoulder - it's not safe".... The same people are happy to drive up the A1 still doing 85-90 with the possibility of coming across a moped doing 28, a tractor or other farm machinery doing 20, or lycra clad fanatics with numbers on their bums "racing" and not paying any attention to other traffic.

    If they really want to make roads safer then they need to introduce time expired licencing with tougher mandatory re-tests every 5 or 10 years. Now that should make people happy about road safety.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      The safety is due to only 488 miles of smart motorway in the UK so statistically there are fewer accidents, lower speed limits on smart motorways, and people being extra terrified of having to stop. It's not due to the lack of hard shoulders somehow making them more safe.

      All that has to be done is keep variable speed limits and throw away the rest of the nonsense.

      1. Felonmarmer

        The safety figures are in terms of hundreds of millions of road miles, so the shorter lengths of smart motorways is taken into account.

        Safest is controlled motorway (smart motorway with widening and hard shoulder)

        Next is dynamic hard shoulder.

        Next is smart motorway (All Lane Running)

        Last is conventional motorway, on which most fatalities are for parked vehicles on the hard shoulder.

        Stopped vehicle fatalities are slightly worse for smart motorway than conventional, but the proportion of collisions involving them is much lower, the majority of collisions are between moving vehicles and those have lower fatality levels on smart motorways than conventional.

        What the stats indicate is that overall safety is more down to congestion than anything else (vehicles per lane per hour travelling at high speed).

        You can look up the stats online.

        Disclaimer : I've worked on smart motorways, both ALR and DHS to ALR conversion (which were scrapped last year).

        1. cornetman Silver badge

          > Safest is controlled motorway (smart motorway with widening and hard shoulder)

          > What the stats indicate is that overall safety is more down to congestion than anything else (vehicles per lane per hour travelling at high speed).

          I'm a bit confused by your analysis but I suppose that the above two facts are not necessarily contradictory.

          What I think you are saying is that the "safest" motorways are the ones that have been converted to smart ones, but they are only statistically safer because they are very congested and therefore not correlated to the fact that they are "smart" at all.

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Congested... or have the variable speed limit set at 60 or 50 instead of 70?

            1. cornetman Silver badge

              Although I have a big problem with the loss of the hard shoulder, IIRC there is quite a bit of evidence that lowering the speed limit on a congested motorway can confusingly increase the throughput, because of the dissipation of standing waves caused by speeding, lane-hopping and erratic drivers.

    2. tiggity Silver badge

      @Hubert Thrunge Jr.

      From my (albeit limited compared to regular motorway commuters as I WFH so no daily car commute) personal experience of smart motorways, they may have some safety advantage in that I have hardly ever driven on them at 70 - vast majority of the time lower speed restrictions have been in place (usually 50) - and lower speed increases crash survivability - but I doubt that is much comfort to family of someone killed in hard shoulder when its used as a traffic lane (& they could not get away from their vehicle in time as "escape window" much reduced when lane in use )

      1. NeilPost

        Unnecessary speed restrictions, unnecessary pedestrians/cows/debris in the road - for about 10 miles.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Yes, speed restrictions over fairly ling distances for no obvious reason can be frustrating at times. A few years go, joining the M1 near Chesterfield you could guarantee if at was after 4pm the 50mph variable limit would be enabled no matter whether the road was busy or not. In recent years that seems to have changed, to everyones benefit. It's only set to 50mph when it's actually busy now :-)

        Further up the M1, passing between Rotherham and Sheffield, the 50mph limit is in place "for air quality" pretty much all day, which strikes me as mission creep. It's also more polluting in at least some cases as some vehicles will have to drop a gear going up the long slope on the southbound side and so be pulling higher revs, ie the many HGVs.

        On the whole though, I find the variable speed limit system be useful most of the time because it's enforced and most people seem to now realise that the speed cameras are active.

    3. Piro Silver badge

      Just stop. Motorways are restricted access roads, designed with hard shoulders. Removing them is a mistake. They didn't spend all that time and money building hard shoulders for a laugh.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You never know when you need one

    We had a blowout on a motor way recently & pulled over on the hard shoulder under a bridge with a concrete barrier between where we where and the running lane to asses the issue. It was still pretty bad with traffic passing at speed

    The run flat had a chunk of tyre missing.

    we where less than 50 meters from the entrance to the services but there was a 10 meter barrier on the hard shoulder meaning a short dip into the slow lane before rejoining the hard shoulder again.

    The services was a much safer place to be than the roadside.

    Wasn't my car & i wasn't driving.

    My car doesn't have run flats and only has the goo and a pump.

  12. Johnb89

    Variable speed randomness

    The other part of the smart motorway debacle is the variable speed system. Who hasn't been on a motorway where the signs come up 40-60-30-50-60-30-50 and so on, or 'queue ahead', where there is hardly any traffic, let alone a queue?

    What does this teach us to do? Ignore the lot. Then in the one in maybe 10 times it's true there's a problem because we've all ignored it.

    I wrote them once: 'why does it say queue ahead when there isn't?'. Answer: Its all automated. So if the sensors detect a lorry going 50 or so we'll put the queue ahead warning for a few miles back. That was 15 years ago, but I can't see its any different now.

    If we're going to spend all this money building these things with sensors and signs and all can we at least have them work? And if automation isn't up to the job, with it obviously isn't, have some people run it.

    1. Felonmarmer

      Re: Variable speed randomness

      You are asking why there's no queue when the speed limit has been lowered in order to relieve the queue?

      1. Johnb89

        Re: Variable speed randomness

        No, I'm asking why the speed limit has been randomised, different at every sign.

        And I'm also asking why the speed limit has been lowered when there is almost no traffic.

    2. Piro Silver badge

      Re: Variable speed randomness

      It's an attempt to reduce the incidence of "ghost" traffic jams, which form after actual traffic jams, which is fair enough I suppose, on the face of it

  13. Piro Silver badge

    We need to stop thinking we know better than past engineers

    There was a reason for a hard shoulder. Let's keep it.

  14. heyrick Silver badge

    So, a high speed road with no hard shoulder to pull into in case of problems.

    What muppet thought that was a good idea?

    1. Piro Silver badge

      People who think engineers in the past must have overlooked an optimisation, or just didn't have the technology.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hang on

    "Broken down vehicles causing accidents"

    How does a stationary vehicle cause an accident? Someone running into a stationary vehicle - that causes the accident. How often on a busy motorway do you see folks leaving enough space from the car in front? Not often.

    Saying that, hard shoulders are dangerous enough for those working in the breakdown industry. That's why there's regs like PAS 43. Working in a live lane to recover a vehicle - would you fancy it?

    1. Caver_Dave Silver badge

      Re: Hang on

      I once helped my brother on an overnight Traffic Management job - The highlight was stopping the one running lane of the A2 at the Black Prince interchange.

      I think that it might be a good idea for everyone to have to spend a night 'on the cones' after they have passed their test. I would certainly open a few eyes to some of the dangers.

  16. jollyboyspecial

    Smart Motorways are not the problem

    There is a fundamental misunderstanding of what constitutes a smart motorway.

    Smart motorways were introduced as a (semi) automatic traffic management solution. At around about the same time as smart motorways were first being trialled there was also a move to widen a lot of motorways by adding an extra lane. For various reasons that almost all boil down to cost it was also decided that there were places where an extra lane could not be added. Temporary all lane running was trialled as a solution. In a handful of locations where widening the road was prohibitively expensive the use of the emergency lane as a running lane controlled by overhead signs was introduced. These systems were generally manually controlled.

    After widening had taken place on some motorways (mostly in the south east naturally) some bright spark in the ministry of transport thought they could save a load of money by introducing permanent all lane running on smart motorways. The argument being that running on the emergency lane could be switched off when required. This was not part of what the traffic experts had envisaged for smart motorways. This was just some bean counter hijacking the smart motorway project to save a whole load of money by cancelling infrastructure projects in the provinces (sound familiar?)

    It was blindingly obvious to anybody that all lane running was a very bad idea whether it was part of a smart motorway or not. Whitehall mandarins argued that since modern vehicles are more reliable there was no need for the emergency lane and hey if somebody does buck the statistical trend (Sunak thinks we should all learn about statistics after all) and breaks down they can head for the left lane and the overhead cameras will spot them and close the lane. Firstly "more reliable" is not the same as "totally reliable". Also folks need to pull over to the emergency lane for all sorts of reasons other than mechanical failures (medical emergencies, punctures, etc.), And secondly despite government spin the emergency lane isn't just for stranded vehicles, as they like to call them these days. The emergency lane is also for use by the emergency services. When there has been an accident, fire or medical emergency the road motorway is often completely blocked. On an old style motorway even if traffic was completely stationary the emergency services could still get to the scene of the incident quickly using the hard shoulder. With all lane running it's not an option. Again the answer from the ivory towers of Whitehall is that the emergency lane can be closed to traffic to allow the emergency services to the scene. Except if every lane is full of stationary traffic where is the traffic in lane one going to go in order to clear that lane? Simple answer is it can't go anywhere.

    None of this is the fault of smart motorways. It's the fault of all lane running which absolutely was not part of the plan for all lane running until somebody decided they wanted to cut costs.

    What we have hear is a government that wants to cut costs, but needs a reason to stop investing in infrastructure. The unpopularlity of all lane running plus the public misunderstanding of what constitutes a smart motorway has given them the ideal excuse. Not only that but when people in the provinces moan about congestion on their out of date and underfunded motorway system* Whitehall can put the blame right back on those people who complain - "well you didn't want smart motorways" they will say assuming that this will excuse them from solving the problem of congested motorways. Which of course it won't, if a motorway needs more lanes then the solution is to build more lanes. The curious thing about our current government is that they seem to think that when they throw this sort of spin out there people are just going to accept it, they seem genuinely surprised and hurt when people refuse to accept their spin.

    *It's not a system. Britain's motorways have been an uncoordinated and unintegrated mess since day one.

  17. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    Get out!

    If your car breaks down on any road, get it as much out of the way as you can (eg. hard shoulder), switch the hazard lights on, and then GET OUT of the car and move behind the crash barrier and move UPSTREAM of your car. If you can't get out for whatever reason, keep your seat belt on and watch your rear view mirror. As has been said above, even cars parked on non-Smart hard shoulders get hit due to selfish morons.

    Many years ago I had a grandstand seat to just such a crash. There was a car broken down on the hard shoulder and the woman and her kids had gotten out and over the hard shoulder but were beside the car. I was parked on a bridge over the motorway waiting for someone so I had a grandstand view of it all. When the truck hit at 56Mph it launched the car 20 feet in the air and over the crash barrier. If the woman & kids had been 30ft downstream they would be dead even though they were behind the crash barrier. As it was the woman had cuts from flying glass. I jumped out and made my way to them with my first aid kit but it wasn't needed beyond a couple of plasters. The truck driver was prosecuted for driving way over his hours. He fell asleep at the wheel and lost his licence, and job.

    I hate all of the so called "Smart" motorways. They are cheap-crap solutions to a problem that should have been handled in an entirely different way. The solution to too many cars on roads is to reduce the numbers of cars by making many (no, not all!!) of the journeys unnecessary, something that COVID and WFH proved categorically.

    As for all you middle lane hogs, nobody cares if you do it when the left lane is busy, but when it is empty then you are a selfish arse and everyone who passes you on whichever side is telling you exactly that (or much worse!). You are forcing law abiding motorists to change lanes unnecessarily and often you are the cause of a traffic jam half a mile behind you. If your driving skills and knowledge of the Highway Code is that poor then you shouldn't be driving at all.

  18. 96percentchimp

    How smart motorways were hijacked to motivate reactionary voters.

    Smart motorways are a great demonstration of the way politicians (and modern Conservatives in particular) can turn a good idea into a disaster that motivates reactionary voters and makes them look like they're campaigning against the eggheads with their crazy ideas, so hated by the Brexit generation.

    I don't have the exact figures to hand, but the initial smart motorway spec had refuge lay-bys at a distance of X (let's say every 250m). The initial trials were a success, meeting all the safety requirements, but the cost of converting the network was too high. The Highways Agency was instructed (by ministers looking to save money, because austerity rules) to redraw the spec at Y (let's say 500m intervals). You can see how that might reduce the safety factor, but the government can still use the trial data to justify a national rollout.

    Why isn't this public knowledge? Because civil servants aren't activists (contrary to current propaganda) and contractors don't criticise their clients in public. In the end, lots of public money was spent on a dangerous project, and more can be spent on rolling it back, so the contractors will still get paid.

    And Rishi Sunak looks like a level-headed chap who won't let this kind of dangerous thing happen (if you recall, Boris tried a similar trick with bendy buses and the monstrous double deckers he foisted on London commuters).

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