The Department for Transport (DfT) and National Highways have announced that plans for new smart motorways have been axed as part of the prime minister’s delivery of his summer campaign commitment.
This covers all new smart motorways – including the 11 already paused from the second Road Investment Strategy (2020 to 2025) and the three scheduled for construction during the third Road Investment Strategy (2025 to 2030).
All will be removed from the government’s road-building plans, with DfT naming cost and lack of public confidence as key motivations for the scrapping.
Rishi Sunak, UK prime minister, said: “All drivers deserve to have confidence in the roads they use to get around the country. 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.
“Many people across the country rely on driving to get to work, to take their children to school and go about their daily lives and I want them to be able to do so with full confidence that the roads they drive on are safe.”
However, while no new stretches of road will be converted into smart motorways, construction works on the M56 J6-8 and M6 J21a-26 will be finished to completion, given they are already 75% done, according to the government.
In addition to this, road safety campaigners have asked that all existing smart motorways now be scrapped, with industry bodies such as the AA and RAC joining the campaign.
“The possibility of converting all lane running stretches to the ‘dynamic hard shoulder’ configuration, where the hard shoulder is open and closed depending on the levels of traffic, could be one option the government considers,” said Simon Williams, road safety spokesperson, RAC.
Some early estimates suggest further smart motorway schemes could have cost more than £1bn. The government hopes that, by cancelling these schemes, it will allow them to monitor public opinion on smart motorways over time.
The government and National Highways have also committed to investing £900m in further safety improvements on existing smart motorways.
DfT has likewise said it will continue to give motorists clear guidance on the use of existing smart motorways.