New Smart Motorway

Published Date: 10th Jul 2014

The Government is predicting that new ‘smart’ motorways, which can convert the hard shoulder to a running lane, this will boost capacity by up to a third and improve journey times up to 10% on the M1 and 15% on the M3.

The construction will now start on the M1 junctions 28-31 in Derbyshire, M1 junctions 32-35a in South Yorkshire and also on the M3 at junction 2-4a in Surrey.

The national speed limit on these three sections will remain at 70mph despite the Highways Agency consulting on proposals to lower limit to just 60mph between the hours of 7am and 7pm seven days a week because of the issue of local air quality and pollution.

'Smart' motorways will operate either permanently or just during busy periods of the day. Overhead changeable message signs will inform motorists of changes in any speed limits, queuing and lane closures.

The new schemes are part of the Government's long-term economic plan and also part of the £24 billion investment on the roads here in the UK by 2021; this will see spending almost tripled to £3 billion each year on England's key highways and motorways.

The Transport Secretary Patrick Mcloughlin has rejected this proposal as the Government's preferred option for managing the problem and has asked the Highways Agency to investigate alternatives instead of addressing the main issue, as work progresses on the schemes in the next 12-18 months.

McLoughlin explained: “Let me be absolutely clear, I want all motorways to run at 70mph. While it sometimes makes sense to use variable limits to keep people moving, blanket reductions are not acceptable.

"Smart motorways are an effective and cost efficient way of increasing space on our roads, cutting jams and speeding up journey times and I am pleased to announce the start of work on these schemes."

In the meantime, as with all smart motorways currently in operation, the Highways Agency plan to take the necessary legal powers to enable them to vary the speed limit from the routine 70mph at certain times.

Specifically, the Agency will look for alternatives that maintain the current 70mph limit wherever possible, in particular when traffic tends to be quieter, such as at weekends and off peak driving hours.

The three new schemes will be constructed as quickly as can be possible to cut down the impact on those who use the motorways.

UK motorists should see an improvement in their journey time when the M1 operations commence from autumn 2015, and when the M3 scheme opens to the public in 2016.