Smart motorway faults exposed

A new investigation has revealed the extent of safety concerns around the UKs smart motorway network.

There are 193 miles of motorway with no hard shoulder in the UK, a further 63 miles where the hard shoulder is sometimes used as another lane for traffic, and 140 miles where the hard shoulder has been retained.

Radars and cameras are employed to identify breakdowns and warn other road users, but an investigation by Panorama has found that between June 2022 and February 2024 there were 397 instances where the technology lost power.

Among the worst cases, junction 18 of the M6 went without signs, signals, camera coverage or radar for five days in July 2023, in September last year junction 22 of the M6 had no signs, signals or CCTV for five days, while junction 6 of the M5 went without coverage for three and a half days in December last year.

However, the worst case was identified at junction 14 of the M4, when the technology supporting the smart motorway was out of service for 11 days.

President of the AA, Edmund King, said: “If you haven’t got that technology, it’s not even a basic motorway because you haven’t got the hard shoulder. It means that you’re playing Russian roulette with people’s lives.”