‘Get smart, know your motorways’ – that’s the message from the Highways Agency as it makes increasing use of technology to make journeys smoother and more reliable for road users.
Smart motorways use the latest technology to improve journeys by sensing traffic flow and setting speed limits accordingly to keep vehicles moving smoothly, instead of continually stopping and starting. The hard shoulder is also opened as a traffic lane at peak times and during heavy congestion to add vital extra capacity on key routes. Information about road conditions, speed limits and the hard shoulder is given to drivers on electronic road signs.
The M4 section of the M4/M5 smart motorway scheme near Bristol became operational this week. It is the latest of a number of sections of motorway already converted to become new ‘smart’ motorways, with more schemes to follow.
Soon hard shoulders on some motorways will be opened up permanently to traffic, starting with two sections of the M25 in early 2014.
Transport Minister Robert Goodwill said: “This government is committed to investing in a road network that is fit for the 21st century. Congestion is estimated to cost the economy £2 billion a year and with traffic levels forecast to grow by 46% by 2040 we need to find innovative, smart ways of managing traffic to cut congestion and improve journey times, while maintaining the safety record of some of the safest roads in the world.”
Highways Agency divisional director Andrew Page-Dove added: “The new technology means motorways look different to how they have traditionally, so we are urging road users to familiarise themselves with what to look out for, how to use the hard shoulder correctly and what to do in a breakdown. We are providing a range of information on our website and on social media so drivers can get smart and know their motorways. We also have advice about how to plan journeys and prevent breakdowns in the first place.”