More smart motorway refuge areas to be built

Safety concerns lead Highways England to move frequency of refuge areas from 1.5 miles to every mile “where practicable”

Motorway emergency refuge areas

The frequency of motorway refuge areas – dedicated laybys for broken down vehicles to use on motorways with no hard shoulder – will be increased, it has been announced.

Highways England, the Government-owned company responsible for running the country’s motorways and major A roads, will build future refuge areas every mile “where practicable”, instead of every 1.5 miles. It will also install more refuge areas in locations “with the highest levels of potential live lane stops.”

• Government's £1m smart motorway payday

The laybys will be finished in orange “where appropriate” to make them more visible to drivers, extending a trial scheme on the M3 in Surrey. 

Smart motorways, also known as all-lane running motorways, see the hard shoulder repurposed as an extra motorway lane – either permanently or when needed during peak times.

In a letter sent to the Transport Select Committee, Highways England chief executive Jim O’ Sullivan said all-lane running motorways deliver “comparable levels of safety to traditional motorways”, though a previous AA survey found 80 per cent of drivers felt them to be more dangerous than traditional motorways.

Further safety measures for smart motorways include a stopped vehicle detection system, due to be rolled out this year following trials on the M25. Highways England also said it had reduced “non-compliance with red-x signals” to around eight per cent, meaning a significant number of motorists are still driving in closed smart motorway lanes. This offence is likely to bring fines and penalty points in 2018. 

Orange refuge areas trialled

The first high-viz bay was revealed on the M3 near Camberley in Surrey in 2017. Back then, Highways England said more refuge areas will be painted in the same manner if the trial was successful.

The move was part of a wider review of smart motorway refuge areas called by the Transport Secretary earlier this month.

Jim O’Sullivan, chief executive at Highways England, said at the time: “We recognise the public concern about smart motorways and we also believe that changes such as these will help drivers have confidence when using them and be clear about where they can stop in an emergency.

“That is why we are trialling these highly visible new style emergency areas. The bright orange colouring will make them as easy as possible to spot and should also discourage drivers from using them in non-emergency situations."

The RAC previously revealed that despite being built at 1.6-mile intervals, refuge areas on smart motorways are a mystery to 52 per cent of motorists.

Last year the Transport Select Committee branded plans to permanently convert hard shoulders into live running lanes "unacceptable", after it raised safety concerns over breakdowns and accidents.

Pete Williams, road safety spokesman at the RAC, said: “Breaking down on a motorway can be an incredibly frightening experience. This is heightened by the lack of understanding of what to do on new smart motorway sections due to concerns about where to find safety when there is no hard shoulder or it is operating as a running lane.

• Which is the UK's slowest motorway?

“Smart motorways are becoming an increasingly common feature of our motorways across England as they are rolled-out in effort to tackle congestion but there is still a good deal of misunderstanding about what to do in the event of a breakdown or an accident.”

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “Our roads are some of the safest in the world but we are always looking at making them safer. Smart motorways are adding extra lanes to our busiest motorways and – as recent evidence shows – reducing the rate of crashes.

“We are making emergency refuge areas more visible to ensure motorists in trouble can easily identify where to stop safely.”

Do you find smart motorway refuges hard to see? Tell us in the comments

Recommended

Thatcham approved devices and crash tests explained
Joe Finnerty in Hyper G sled
Consumer news

Thatcham approved devices and crash tests explained

Thatcham studies crashes, rates alarms and sets insurance groups to help cut drivers’ costs. We find out how
11 May 2021
Company car tax guide 2021/2022: everything you need to know
Executive saloons make popular company cars
Consumer news

Company car tax guide 2021/2022: everything you need to know

Company car tax is bound up in a complex net of emissions, salaries and a car's value; we explain how the system looks for the 2021/22 Financial Year
27 Apr 2021
No new smart motorways to open without stopped vehicle detection
smart motorway
News

No new smart motorways to open without stopped vehicle detection

Implementation of SVD technology to be accelerated, with existing smart motorways getting the system six months earlier than planned
21 Apr 2021
Breakdowns following pothole strikes surge by highest rate ever seen
Potholes
Consumer news

Breakdowns following pothole strikes surge by highest rate ever seen

Report shows 37 per cent increase over the last quarter, as breakdown firm warns roads “are like the surface of the moon”
20 Apr 2021

Most Popular

LEC launches affordable EV conversion for classic Mini
LEC MINI Electric
MINI

LEC launches affordable EV conversion for classic Mini

The conversion sees the Mini’s A-Series engine replaced with a dinky electric motor and a 20kWh battery for a range of 70 miles in the city
10 Jun 2021
New 2021 Volkswagen T7 Multivan replaces Caravelle
Volkswagen T7 Multivan - front
Volkswagen Caravelle

New 2021 Volkswagen T7 Multivan replaces Caravelle

The Volkswagen T7 Multivan MPV switches to the MQB platform and adds plug-in hybrid technology
10 Jun 2021
New 2021 Vauxhall Astra teased for the first time
Vauxhall Astra teaser 1
Vauxhall Astra

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra teased for the first time

The new Vauxhall Astra will get electrified powertrains and a more premium image
8 Jun 2021
New 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid launched with 1,006bhp
Tesla Model S facelift - front
Tesla Model S

New 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid launched with 1,006bhp

Range-topping version of the Tesla Model S officially unveiled, with a sprint time of 0-60mph in less than two seconds
10 Jun 2021
‘Our switch to electric will soon make driving manual cars a lost art'
Gearknob
Opinion

‘Our switch to electric will soon make driving manual cars a lost art'

Want to drive a manual car? You need to take your test in a manual car. So what happens once all driving-school cars are automatic EVs?
8 Jun 2021
New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review
Skoda Enyaq iV 80 Sportline - front
Skoda Enyaq

New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review

The new Skoda Enyaq iV is the Czech firm’s first bespoke electric car and we've tested the full range on UK roads
10 Jun 2021
Audi updates line-up for 2022 with new tech and trim features
Audi S5
Audi

Audi updates line-up for 2022 with new tech and trim features

Almost every car in Audi’s line-up has received a tweak, with major updates including Amazon Alexa integration and a Sonos stereo
11 Jun 2021
New 2021 Lexus NX arrives with firm’s first plug-in hybrid drivetrain
Lexus NX - front action
Lexus NX SUV

New 2021 Lexus NX arrives with firm’s first plug-in hybrid drivetrain

The new Lexus NX 350h features a standard hybrid set-up, while the NX 450h+ gets a plug-in hybrid powertrain capable of 40 miles of pure electric powe…
12 Jun 2021
'Factories are at a standstill because they can’t get the parts to finish cars'
Car manufacturing
Opinion

'Factories are at a standstill because they can’t get the parts to finish cars'

Steve Fowler points out the fresh issues facing global car manufacturing
9 Jun 2021
New Volkswagen T-Cross Black Edition 2021 review
Volkswagen T-Cross Black Edition - front
Volkswagen T-Cross

New Volkswagen T-Cross Black Edition 2021 review

The small Volkswagen T-Cross SUV turns on the style in new Black Edition trim
11 Jun 2021
New Toyota Land Cruiser 300 revealed with six-cylinder petrol and diesel power
Toyota Land Cruiser - front
Toyota Land Cruiser

New Toyota Land Cruiser 300 revealed with six-cylinder petrol and diesel power

Six-cylinder engine line-up and clever new suspension tech for the new large Toyota Land Cruiser, but it’s not destined for the UK
9 Jun 2021
Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300
Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300
Car group tests

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300

The capable Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport goes up against its new Cupra Leon 300 sibling in this hot hatch battle
12 Jun 2021
New Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet 2021 review
Mercedes E 300 Cabriolet - front
Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet

New Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet 2021 review

The soft-top Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet gets the same updates as the saloon and estate variants
10 Jun 2021
New Genesis G80 2021 review
Genesis G80
Genesis G80

New Genesis G80 2021 review

Is the new Genesis G80 a worthy competitor in the executive saloon segment?
9 Jun 2021