A leading road hauliers industry group in the UK has said it is pleased with how the government has responded to concerns it had raised about the rollout of so-called ‘smart motorways’ in the country.
The Freight Transport Association (FTA) was one of a number of groups to highlight worries about such schemes in the wake of a report by the House of Commons’ Transport Select Committee that warned there was still work to be done in order to ensure the safety of vehicles travelling on these roads.
Smart motorways are highlighted by the government as a cost-effective way of increasing capacity on the UK’s road network without embarking on expensive and lengthy widening projects. They include the use of all-lane running and active monitoring solutions that can adjust speed limits and open and close lanes on demand to keep traffic flowing.
However, various motoring groups have highlighted potential dangers such as signalling challenges and a lack of refuges on stretches of road where hard shoulders are used as running lanes.
In its response to the Transport Select Committee’s report, the Department for Transport acknowledged the need for more education of road users about how to navigate smart motorways safely, and highlighted legislation that will allow for the use of automated detection of vehicles that fail to comply with signals such as red X signs that indicate when a lane is closed to traffic.
“The setting and removing of accurate, helpful and timely signals has been identified as a key area that needs to be reviewed,” the government stated. “Work has already started with key Highways England operational and technology experts to deliver continual improvement.”
The FTA said it is pleased to see its concerns addressed, and emphasised the importance of educating drivers about smart motorways, as well as improving signage and technology to ensure the safety of smart motorways.
Head of road network management policy at the organisation Malcolm Bingham said: “The government’s evidence on schemes already built show that there is also growing positive evidence of the safety of all lane running.”