Smart Motorways – Part 2



Managed Motorways, now known as Smart Motorways, are sections of motorway in the UK that uses Active Traffic Management methods to improve journey times and reduce emissions during busy periods. This is primarily done by using variable speed limits and making use of the hard shoulder.

Congestion costs approximately £2 billion a year, a quarter of this coming from incidents. Reducing congestion not only helps counteract the increase in vehicles on our roads but create economic benefits for the local area and country.

The UK’s first Smart Motorway was introduced in the West Midlands on the M42 in 2006. Analysis of the gathered data showed that:

  • Injuries caused by accidents reduced by more than 50%.
  • Planned journey times improved by 22%.
  • The few accidents that did occur consisted of zero fatalities and fewer seriously injured.

Success of this, I want to say experiment, meant that plans were announced in 2007 to extend funding to reach two different sections of the M6. Studies into the use of Smart Motorways on the M1, M4, M20 and M25 were launched.

The beginning of 2010 saw a £2 billion contract announced to adapt the M1, M4, M5, M6, M60 and M62 to have Smart Motorway functionality. £11 billion has been funded for projects between 2015 and 2020.


UK map



Post Opening Evaluation of the M62 J25-30 Opened October 2013

The M62 J25-30 reaches 15 miles south of Bradford and Leeds, it has a mixture of Smart Motorway Schemes in operation providing extra capacity in both directions. One year after opening the following observations were made:


Objectives Objective Achieved?
To achieve additional motorway capacity, making best use of existing infrastructure where possible Yes
To reduce the number and severity of accidents per vehicle kilometre Yes, but too soon to assess severity
To minimise the detrimental effects on traffic on the surrounding road network where possible Yes
To improve journey time reliability, as measured by the average delay experienced in the worst 10% of journeys Yes
To improve journey times Improved during peak periods but not between peak times.
To offset the detrimental environmental effects of the scheme through mitigation measures where technically and economically feasible Yes
To improve the quality of information provided to drivers about the state of traffic flow in the motorway Yes



Key Findings:

  • Increase in traffic levels, but not as high as anticipated.
  • Journey times have decreased during peak periods.
  • Journey time variety has decreased.
  • Safety has increased better than expected, with one third less collisions.
  • Unnecessary limits set to 60mph has increased journey times during inter-peak times.
  • Traffic flow is smoother in the peak periods on the busiest sections – demonstrated by the fact all lanes are travelling at similar speeds.

Next Up!

Next, we will take a look at how to correctly use the Smart Motorways, this will include key criticisms, something close to my heart following my own personal experience that the Highways Patrol Officer told me was a “life or death” situation.

Thank you for reading!

Written by – Danny Atkin. Transport Director



Highways England – –

UK Construction Media –

Telegraph –



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