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Blog 24 by Frank – Smart Motorways - or Dumb?

The Government and the media have spoken widely about the benefits of so-called Smart Motorways and how they benefit the traffic flow! Is that true?


Here’s the thoughts of Fuelcard Frank on the subject. The principle of improving traffic flow on our motorways is a positive one and should be encouraged if it works, but I’m not convinced that it does. Let’s look at a few examples:


Today I was travelling northbound on the M1 past Milton Keynes where the former Hard Shoulder is now the 4th lane. An illuminated sign advised that the nearside lane was blocked ahead, and vehicle should move out to the 2nd lane or above. This went on for a couple of miles and the speed limit was reduced to 60mph, causing some ‘bunching’.


After another mile or so of this the next sign showed all clear, there was no obstruction and no blockage to the lane. Perhaps there had been earlier but that must have been long cleared as the bunching of the traffic was caused by the lane being closed and the speed limit reduced.


Further north on the M1 and now heading south past Leicester the illuminated sign advised us that there was a queue on the slip road, and we should all slow down to 60mph and then a mile later, to 40mph. Now this did cause a queue as traffic slowed and moved away from the inside lane to avoid said queue.

Surprise, surprise…. No queue on the slip road and a waste of everyone’s time and driving once again! Similar at Junction 15a for Northampton where we were again advised to reduce our speed to 40mph due to a non-existent queue on the slip road.


Now if you drive on the M1 past Luton, at Junction 11 anytime of the day or night, you’ll almost always find a speed restriction there due to heavy traffic. I’ve even experienced this at 2am when I was the only vehicle on the motorway! A similar situation is frequently seen on the M25 around the M40 and M4 junctions, and I’m sure there are many more examples on Britain’s so called ‘Smart’ Motorways! The illuminated signs are just left on permanently!


This seems simply to be lazy cost cutting by the Highways Agency, and these alleged ‘Smart’ Motorways are therefore become ‘Dumb’ Motorways.


The principle of Smart Motorways is that they will be monitored 24/7/365 and as incidents happen the system will notify the motorists, slow or divert them and keep the nation’s roads moving. This needs quick reactions when an incident happens and equally quick resolution when it clears. The former seems to happen, but not the latter! I would venture to suggest therefore that insufficient staff are employed to monitor the roads nationwide and those on duty spend their time adding restrictions and have no available time or inclination to remove these same restrictions. The result is, traffic jams, increased journey times, higher transport costs, frustrated motorists, increased pollution and higher fuel consumption! A multiple whammy and completely avoidable!


So more like ‘DUMB’ Motorways, not Smart ones!.... and I haven’t even started on the increased accidents caused by the lack of hard shoulders!


Fuelcard Frank

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