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  • Writer's pictureTHaT Consultancy

Smart Motorways: Rollout paused as government responds to Transport Committee’s damning Nov21 Report

Updated: Apr 20, 2022

Smart Motorway with 4 lanes
Smart Motorway

What has happened?

In November 2021 the Transport Select Committee published the results of its second inquiry into the rollout and safety of smart motorways. The Transport Committee recommended that the rollout of smart motorways should be paused until their safety can be delivered and assured. The Committee also concluded that the March 2020 decision to make all new motorways all-lane running was premature as the evidence-based was insufficient.

On 12 January 2022 the Government accepted all of the transport committee’s key recommendations and confirmed that the rollout of all-lane running smart motorways will be halted to enable five years of safety and economic data to be analysed for every all-lane running scheme introduced before 2020.

Where work is already underway on smart motorways additional emergency refuge areas, and stopped vehicle detection technology, will be installed where possible.

Why should I care? What has this got to do with planning?

In our opinion the Government’s recent announcement is important for a number of reasons:

  • We think it is important at the personal level because anyone who travels any distance on the motorway network is very likely to use a smart motorway. Road users should be able to use new high-speed motorway layouts (particularly those as radical as smart motorways) knowing that they have been thoroughly evaluated and properly designed with highway safety, not cost savings, as the primary consideration.

  • As a professional, if you are involved in any scheme that is reliant upon increased motorway capacity arising from a smart motorway then the project faces potentially serious delays and uncertainty.

  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly for those of us involved in development work, it shows that the Department for Transport is not infallible.

If you have had any experience negotiating with the Department for Transport then you will know that their design standards and planning protocols are complex and rigorously applied.

We have a strong track record of success negotiating with the Department for Transport to achieve our clients’ objectives.

Some clients have, however, simply accepted whatever the Department for Transport has said without challenging it.

Hopefully this latest Government announcement will help convince clients that it is often worth negotiating with, and sometimes challenging, the Department for Transport.

There is a case study on this website HERE describing one such case where we obtained agreement with the Department for Transport, and Kent County Council, for a contentious development proposal on one of the most sensitive sections of the motorway network in the south-east.

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