Good news on ‘smart’ motorways

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced that the building of all new smart motorways is being cancelled because of cost and safety concerns. Existing smart motorways will remain while a previously announced safety refit takes place.

Tony Dunne, Community’s National Officer for Logistics, said:

“This is excellent news. The introduction of these so-called ‘smart’ motorways was certainly not a clever idea.

“Our logistics sector members, including staff at the AA, who run roadside patrols keeping the UK’s motorists safe, are deeply committed to ensuring road safety, and they have serious concerns about the safety of the UK’s ‘smart’ motorway networks.

“We are glad that the Government has listened to our concerns and those of other stakeholders.”

At Community’s Biennial Delegate Conference in May 2002, members passed a resolution on smart motorways which called on the union to “lobby the Transport Secretary and government, as well as breakdown specialists such as the AA and road hauliers, to re-examine the safety of all smart motorways”.

In March 2023, Tony Dunne wrote to the new Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, on behalf of our members who work in the transportation and storage sector, stating that:

“Community believes that the existing safety precautions on smart motorways are not sufficient. If a car breaks down on all-lane running smart motorways, drivers are meant to aim for emergency refuge areas. We know that these schemes can leave cars stranded in fast-moving traffic.

“Data shows that 38 people were killed on smart motorways between 2014 and 2019, with the number of deaths on motorways without a hard shoulder rising from 5 in 2017 to 15 in 2019.

“We welcomed the move last year to pause the roll-out of all-lane running smart motorways for five years whilst their safety is assessed.

“As you will be aware, this followed a report from the Transport Committee in November 2021 calling for further safety and economic data to be gathered. I write to you to urge you to go further and make plans to return the hard shoulder to all motorways, removing all all-lane running motorways from the UK network. We believe this is a critical step to ensure safety.”

In response, the Department for Transport confirmed that:

“Plans for new smart motorways have been cancelled, recognising the current lack of public confidence felt by some drivers and wider cost pressures. This will mean that the 11 schemes currently paused from the second Road Investment Strategy (2020 – 2025) and the three earmarked for construction during the third Road Investment Strategy (2025-30) will be removed from the Government’s road building plans. We will continue to track public confidence in smart motorways and consider the latest safety and economic data.” 

The letter also confirmed other safety measures, including:

“£900m to add further safety features to smart motorways already in operation. This includes adding additional places to stop in an emergency and more technology to help spot stopped vehicles, which has now been completed.”

Further information

Letter to Secretary of State, March 2023 (pdf)  

Response from Department for Transport, April 2023 (pdf)

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The members who make up our logistics sector keep our country moving. Community is the logistics and drivers union, and is recognised at leading logistics companies including XPO, GXO, the AA and Whistl, representing driving and non-driving staff in the sector. Community also represents self-employed and contract workers in the sector.

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If you are a member of Community and need help or advice, please contact us at or on 0800 389 6332.


If you are a member of Community and need help or advice, please contact us at or on 0800 389 6332.


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