Plans for new smart motorways will be cancelled, delivering on the Prime Minister’s summer campaign pledge.
New smart motorways – including the 11 already paused from the second Road Investment Strategy (2020 to 2025) and the 3 earmarked for construction during the third Road Investment Strategy (2025 to 2030) – will be removed from government road-building plans, given financial pressures and in recognition of the current lack of public confidence felt by drivers.
Initial estimations suggest constructing future smart motorway schemes would have cost more than £1 billion and cancelling these schemes will allow more time to track public confidence in smart motorways over a longer period.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak 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.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said:
We want the public to know that this government is listening to their concerns.
Today’s announcement means no new smart motorways will be built, recognising the lack of public confidence felt by drivers and the cost pressures due to inflation.
Independent road safety campaigner, Meera Naran, whose 8-year-old son Dev, died in a motorway collision on the M6 in 2018, said:
Since successfully campaigning for the 18-point action plan, £900 million commitment and the pause in the roll out in January 2022, there has been a lot of joined up thinking in mutually coming to this decision.
I thank ministers and executives for inviting me to work alongside them in memory of Dev, towards a mutual goal and for their commitment over the years.
The government and National Highways continue to invest £900 million in further safety improvements on existing smart motorways.
This includes progressing plans on installing 150 extra emergency areas across the network in line with the commitments made in response to the Transport Select Committee, as well as further improving the performance of stopped vehicle detection technology on every all lane running smart motorway.
The government will also continue to give motorists clear advice when using existing smart motorways.
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.