A Guide To: Smart Motorways

A Guide To: Smart Motorways

Smart motorways are becoming increasingly popular throughout England, so it’s worth understanding the different types and how to use them.

In this guide we explain everything you need to know about smart motorways including what they are, how to use them and what to do if you breakdown on one.

What is a Smart Motorway?

A smart motorway is a section of a motorway that uses traffic management methods, usually using variable speed limits or using the hard shoulder an operating lane, in attempt to increase capacity and reduce congestion in busy sections. The term was first used by Highways England in 2013, although the first controlled motorway was a stretch of the M24 in 2006.

What are the Different Types of Smart Motorways?

  • Controlled – Multiples lanes, variable speed limits and a hard shoulder that can only be used in emergencies.
  • Hard Shoulder Running – Variable speed limits and a hard shoulder than can be opened as an operating lane at busy times. Overhead signs indicate when you can drive on the hard shoulder.
  • All Lanes Running – Variable speed limits, no hard shoulder and emergency refuge areas every 2.5km. All Lanes Running is the standard for all new smart motorway schemes from 2013 on.

What Happens if you Break Down on a Smart Motorway?

In all cases, immediately switch on your hazard warning lights.

If you are able to reach one safely, use the emergency refuge area. It will be marked with a blue sign featuring an orange SOS telephone symbol. If you cannot reach an emergency refuge area, try and move onto the verge if there is no safety barrier.

If you stop in the nearside lane, leave your vehicle via the left-hand door if it safe to do so and wait behind the safety barrier. If you are unable to do so, then remain in your vehicle with your seat belt and hazard warning lights on.

If you can leave your vehicle safely then contact Highways England using the roadside emergency telephone at the emergency refuge area. If you cannot leave your vehicle safely then dial 999.




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