Northern News

Government Cancels Planned Smart Motorways in the North

The UK Government has announced that it has cancelled plans to construct any new “Smart Motorways”, including four in the north, due to lack of public confidence in the scheme.

In total 14 projects currently under construction or planned to start construction in 2025 have now been shelved, although two motorway conversions that are already 75% complete will continue.

The decision follows a pause on new projects in 2022 as the Government followed advice from the House of Commons Transport Select Committee to halt development until five years of safety data had been collected on stretches of smart motorway opened prior to 2020.

Smart motorways have been a source of controversy since the initial M42 test in 2006, with many industry bodies including the AA, RAC, and GEM Motoring Assist, speaking out against them in their current format — particularly “all-lane running” (ALR) motorways which see the hard shoulder converted to a permanent lane.

For the most part concern centres on motorists’ reluctance to use lane one without a permanent shoulder, and the gaps between the emergency refuges which increased from 0.5 miles in the initial trial to 1.5 miles on current smart motorways, which increases the likelihood of vehicles breaking down in a live motorway lane.

Of the 14 schemes now cancelled, four are located in our region: the M1 between J35A-39 (Sheffield-Wakefield), the M6 from J19-21A (Knutsford-Croft), and the M62 from J20-25 (Rochdale-Brighouse) and J25-30 (Brighouse-Leeds). The nearly complete stretches of the M56, J6-8 (Manchester Airport-Altincham), and M6 J21a-26 (Croft-Wigan) will continue construction.

Although the cancelled projects will save an estimated £1 billion, the Government has committed £900 million to improve existing smart motorways — including stopped vehicle detection technology and 150 further emergency refuge areas.