Smart motorway equipment failures spark safety concerns.


It has come to light that the equipment supporting England’s network of smart motorways regularly stopped functioning, putting drivers “at risk”.

From June 2022 to February 2024, there was 397 instances where the motorway network lost electricity, making it harder to identify when a car breaks down and potentially trap drivers in a live lane due to there being no hard shoulder in some cases.

Approximately half of England’s 400 miles of smart motorways lack a hard shoulder, which activists claim increases the risk of breakdowns.

Important safety devices, such as CCTV, signals, and signs, were rendered inoperable for days at a period in several of the accidents. The BBC was informed by a traffic officer employed by the network that they no longer deem it safe.

The purpose of radar and cameras is to detect malfunctioning cars and direct traffic to a different lane. According to a study from the previous year, motorways without hard shoulders are three times more risky.

Data provided to the BBC’s Panorama shows that in June 2023, there were five days without any cameras, radars, signs, or signals at the M6 junction 18. At the M62’s Junction 22, there were no signals, sensors, or CCTV for five days in September 2023.

Additionally, there were no sensors, signs, signals, or CCTV at M5 junction 6 for three and a half days in December 2023.

According to National Highways, smart motorways are the safest highways in Britain and that the radar identifies 89% of failures, meaning that 10% of breakdowns go unnoticed.

Since smart motorways were implemented in 2010, at least 79 people have died on them, and seven coroners have called for improvements.

The network’s traffic officer stated that they no longer think the motorways are secure.

He said: “Sometimes it’s faulty. Sometimes they’re repairing something and they’ll turn it off. I don’t always know it’s off.”

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