The building of new smart motorways is being cancelled as Rishi Sunak acknowledged concerns about safety and cost.
Fourteen planned smart motorways – including 11 that are already paused and three earmarked for construction – will be removed from government road-building plans, given financial pressures and in recognition of the lack of public trust.
Campaigners welcomed the move, but demanded the government now return the hard shoulder on existing conversions.
The Department for Transport said the construction of these schemes would have cost more than £1bn, but added that the construction of two stretches of smart motorway – at junctions six to eight of the M56 and 21a to 26 of the M6 – will continue as they are already more than three-quarters complete.
Existing stretches will remain but be subjected to a safety refit so there are 150 more emergency stopping places across the network.
About 10% of England’s motorway network is made up of smart motorways. They involve various methods to manage the flow of traffic, such as converting the hard shoulder into a live running lane and variable speed limits. But there have been longstanding safety fears after fatal incidents in which vehicles stopped in live lanes without a hard shoulder were hit from behind.
In January 2022, the government paused the expansion of motorways where the hard shoulder is used as a permanent live traffic lane. This was to enable five years of data to be collected to assess whether they are safe for drivers.
In his Tory leadership campaign last summer, Sunak vowed to ban them.
“All drivers deserve to have confidence in the roads they use to get around the country,” the prime minister said.
“That’s why last year I pledged to stop the building of all new smart motorways, and today I’m making good on that promise.
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