A new generation of “smart motorways” has been launched starting with an eight-mile section of the M25 in Hertfordshire.
Drivers are able to take advantage of a combination of pioneering technology and use of the hard shoulder as a permanent running lane to reduce congestion and ease traffic flow, improving the reliability of journeys between junctions 23 and 25.
One more section on the southern part of the M25 is due to open next month, between junctions 5 and 6/7, with a third later in the year on the northern section, between junctions 25 and 27, with similar schemes being rolled out across the country including the M1, M3, and M62.
“Smart motorways” deliver additional road capacity more quickly and at less cost than traditional road widening schemes, while remaining at least as safe, says the Highways Agency.
The new technology includes infrared CCTV, being used for the first time by the Highways Agency, to enable staff in the control centres to have increased visibility of the network and will be able to respond quicker to incidents. The section between junctions 23 and 25 also includes: Five super span gantries (over both carriageways), three single span gantries (over one carriageway), nine refuge areas, 20 overhead signals and 28 CCTV cameras.
However, both the AA and RAC have concerns about the new “smart motorways” because permanent hard shoulder removal means that breakdowns and other emergencies could take place in a live traffic lane rather than the hard shoulder.