Plug pulled on new smart motorways15 Apr 2023

Fourteen planned schemes abandoned

There will be no more smart motorways built in England  “in recognition of the current lack of public confidence felt by drivers and cost pressures”, the government has said.

A total of fourteen schemes in the pipeline will now be abandoned: eleven that were already paused from the current Road Investment Strategy (RIS) 2, and three scheduled to get underway in RIS3.

The move will save about £1 billion.

However, “while no new stretches of road will be converted into smart motorways, the M56 J6-8 and M6 J21a-26 will be completed given they are already over three quarters constructed.”

The £900 million investment being made to improve safety on existing smart motorways will continue.

This includes the installation of 150 extra emergency areas “in line with the commitments [government] made to the Transport Select Committee.”

Improvements will also be made to stopped vehicle detection technology which will cover every all lane running smart motorway.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said:

“If you look at the data in the round all lane running looks relatively safe, but that is clearly not the perception amongst many drivers, and certainly not for anyone who’s experienced a motorway break down expecting to find sanctuary on a hard shoulder that’s been withdrawn.

“This decision answers the question about future schemes, but it begs a big question about the way motorists regard the existing all-lane running routes, even if they are being retrofitted with additional safety features, and about what’s to be done on the fourteen routes where the extra capacity from opening the hard shoulder is no longer in prospect.”

Public concern has centred on crashes where vehicles have stopped in live lanes, unable to make it to the emergency refuse areas, and then been hit by other traffic.

In 2019, the Department for Transport carried out an evidence stocktake to assess the safety of smart motorways.

In March 2020 the stocktake was published together with an action plan which set out 18 steps to improve safety on, and increase public confidence in, smart motorways.

Subsequently National Highways – responsible for running England’s motorways – published first year, and then second year, progress reports detailing the work done to meet the goals set out in the action plan.

In November 2021, the Transport Select Committee published a report calling for a pause in the rollout of smart motorways until more safety data had been collected from those stretches of smart motorway already in operation.

In January 2022 the government responded to the select committee report saying it would pause the rollout and also agree to all the other recommendations made by the committee.



Philip Gomm – Head of External Communications – RAC Foundation

[email protected] | 07711 776448 | 020 7747 3445

Notes to editors:

The RAC Foundation is a transport policy and research organisation that explores the economic, mobility, safety and environmental issues relating to roads and their users.

The Foundation publishes independent and authoritative research with which it promotes informed debate and advocates policy in the interest of the responsible motorist. All the Foundation’s work is available at: