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Government presses the brakes on smart motorway expansion plans


The UK government has put the brakes on plans to expand the smart motorway network after years of safety warnings.


Known for running all lanes, no fixed hard shoulders and gantry signage showing when a lane is closed, smart motorways were seen as a quick fix for the UK’s increasingly congested road network.


However, road safety campaigners and families of those who have died after being hit whilst broken down on this type of motorway say that removing hard shoulders have contributed to increased road deaths.


The government has said though that existing stretches of road set-up as smart motorways will remain in place.


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Smart motorways are supposed to have emergency refuge areas where drivers can safely pull over if their car breaks down. However, many have been left stranded in a ‘live’ lane and, either because drivers haven’t seen red X signs, or simply because they’ve ignored them, stranded cars have been hit by fast-moving traffic.


Currently there are around 400 miles of smart motorway in use, half of which lacks a permanent hard shoulder.


Read more: Speed limits lowered on several UK motorways in bid to cut pollution


Transport secretary Grant Shapps commented on the pause in rollout plans that: "While our initial data shows that smart motorways are among the safest roads in the UK, it's crucial that we go further to ensure people feel safer using them."