Smart Motorways

One key part of Highways England's expanded programme of road improvements is the conversion of large parts of the English motorway network to operate as Smart Motorways. This is intended to increase capacity and reduce delays without expensive conventional widening works. Many of the earlier Active Traffic Management and Managed Motorway schemes operate slightly differently - with, for example, part-time hard shoulder running, "through junction running" and so on - and there is an aspiration that work will be done to further upgrade these to make Smart Motorways across England operate in a consistent way.

The expectation is that, in little more than the next decade, most or all parts of the M1, M3, M4, M5 and M6 will be upgraded to Smart Motorway.

There's more information about the features of an upgraded road in CBRD's Smart Motorways article.

Individual schemes

M23 J8-10 Smart Motorway 7 March 2018

Upgrade of the M23 between junction 8 (the M25 at Merstham) and junction 10 (the A264 at Crawley) to Smart Motorway standard. This is the busiest section of the M23 and heavy volumes of traffic, with associated slow-downs and phantom traffic jams, can occur even at off-peak times. It is also the principal road link between London and the city's second largest airport.

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M3 J9-14 Smart Motorway 6 March 2018

Upgrade of the M3 between junction 9 (the A34 at Winchester) and junction 14 (the A33 and M27 north of Southamnpton) to Smart Motorway standard. This part of the M3 suffers particularly high levels of traffic, being a single link connecting the major conurbation and port at Southampton to the wider UK.

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M20 J3-5 Smart Motorway 6 March 2018

Upgrade of the M20 between junction 3 (M26) and junction 5 (the A20 west of Maidstone) to Smart Motorway standard. This section of the M20 has three lanes in each direction and is particularly busy, running between the M26 and Maidstone. West of this section, traffic disperses between the M20 and M26; east of this section the motorway was widened in the 1990s and already operates with variable speed limits.

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M62 J10-12 Smart Motorway 13 December 2017

Work to upgrade the M62 between junctions 10 (Croft Interchange at the M6) and junction 12 (Eccles Interchange at the M60) to Smart Motorway standard. This will include the introduction of new technology, with Variable Speed Limits, new traffic sensors and CCTV. Refuge areas will also be installed at regular intervals by the side of the motorway.

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M27 J4-11 Smart Motorway 24 October 2017

Upgrade of the existing M27 between junction 4 (the M3) and junction 11 (Fareham) to Smart Motorway. New technology and Emergency Areas will be installed to enable variable speed limits to operate, and the hard shoulder will be converted into a permanent running lane to provide four continuous lanes throughout this section. Smart Motorway upgrade works are also planned on the M3 between Winchester and Southampton, and the two schemes will connect at M27 junction 4.

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A1(M) J6-8 Smart Motorway 15 October 2017

Upgrade of the A1(M) motorway between junction 6 (Welwyn Garden City) and junction 8 (Stevenage north) to Smart Motorway. The hard shoulder will be converted into a permanent running lane to provide three lanes in both directions for the whole of this length of motorway, a communications upgrade will be carried out and variable speed limits installed.

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M25 J10-16 Smart Motorway 28 August 2017

Upgrade of several sections of the M25 to Smart Motorway between junctions 10 (the A3 at Wisley) and 16 (the M40 at Denham).

The M25 already has some Smart Motorway technology along this full length, and was in fact the first motorway in the UK to have Variable Speed Limits, which have been operational here for at least 20 years. This scheme is therefore not a standard Smart Motorway project, and instead it will introduce All Lane Running at four specific locations:

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M1 J13-16 Smart Motorway 28 August 2017

Upgrade of the M1 between junctions 13 (Ridgmont, south of Milton Keynes) and 16 (Upper Heyford, west of Northampton) to Smart Motorway standard. The scheme will feature All Lane Running, meaning the hard shoulder will be converted into a fourth permanent traffic lane throughout.

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M6 J16-19 Smart Motorway 20 April 2017

Upgrade of the M6 to Smart Motorway between junctions 16 and 19, in order to create a smoother flow of traffic and thus reduce congestion.

As well as variable speed limits, this is a full conversion to All-Lane-Running (turning the hard shoulder into a permanent fourth running lane) with only Emergency Refuge Areas provided instead.

This scheme replaces the earlier M6 J13-19 Smart Motorway scheme, which was withdrawn in 2014.

Works will initially be at the northern end of the scheme, before spreading south.

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M5 J4A-J6 Smart Motorway 6 April 2017

Upgrade of the M5 between junctions 4A (the M42) and 6 (Worcester) to Smart Motorway, including variable speed limits and all-lane running. Work to upgrade the central reservation to concrete step barrier along this section was completed in 2014. Enabling works and site clearance began in August 2015, with main construction beginning in January 2016. As such this scheme has a relatively imminent completion date, due to the recent completion of the ancillary works.

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M1 J32-35A Smart Motorway 13 January 2017

Upgrade of the M1 between junctions 32 (Thurcroft) and 35A (Hood Hill) to provide Smart Motorway technology. The upgraded road will have equipment to allow the use of variable speed limits and emergency refuge areas.

The hard shoulder will be converted to a permanent running lane for the full length of the scheme, meaning that this section of motorway will then have four running lanes and occasional emergency lay-bys but no hard shoulder. The Tinsley Viaduct will carry three traffic lanes plus hard shoulders.

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M60 J8-18 and M62 J18-20 Smart Motorway 17 June 2016

Installation of Smart Motorway technology to a substantial length of M60 and M62, stretching from M60 J8 (the Carrington Spur near Trafford) to M62 J20 (the A627(M) between Oldham and Rochdale).

The scheme will introduce variable speed limits, hard shoulder running and new emergency refuge areas in an attempt to increase capacity and improve traffic flows on this congested length of motorway.

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M1 J19-16 Smart Motorway 11 April 2016

Upgrade of the M1 to provide Smart Motorway technology between Junction 16 (Kislingbury) and 19 (Catthorpe), with the stated aim of improving traffic flow, reducing congestion and increasing safety.

The upgraded section will operate All Lane Running, converting the hard shoulder to a permanent running lane. This will provide four lanes in each direction on this section of the M1, with emergency lay-bys to replace the hard shoulder.

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M1 J28-31 Smart Motorway 28 March 2016

Upgrade of the M1 between junctions 28 (Pinxton) and 31 (Aston) to Smart Motorway. This will involve installation of electronic equipment to enable the use of variable speed limits and the installation of emergency refuge areas. It will also see the hard shoulder converted into a fourth permanent running lane. The completed motorway will not have a hard shoulder.

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M6 J10A-13 Smart Motorway 8 February 2016

Provision of Smart Motorway technology on the M6 between junctions 10A and 13.

Between Junctions 10A and 11A (the M6 Toll), variable speed limits will be installed; north of junction 11A full Smart Motorway technology including conversion of the hard shoulder to a running lane ("all lane running") will be provided.

Work was initially planned to be complete by Spring 2015, but Highways England have since decided to add resurfacing to the programme, which has extended to timescale to Autumn 2015.

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M1 J39-42 Smart Motorway 1 February 2016

Upgrade of the M1 between junctions 39 (Durkar) and 42 (Lofthouse) to Smart Motorway. Equipment will be installed to provide variable speed limits and emergency refuge areas along the full length of the road, and hard shoulder running will be possible to provide extra capacity at times of congestion.

This scheme replaces an earlier proposal to widen this section of M1 to full dual four-lane standard, which was withdrawn in favour of a series of Smart Motorway projects from Chesterfield to Leeds.

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M6 J13-J15 Smart Motorway 21 January 2016

Work to upgrade the M6 to provide Smart Motorway technology between Stafford and Stoke on Trent, in order to tackle congestion and improve capacity. This section of the motorway is one of the busiest parts that have not yet been converted.

Like nearby Smart Motorway projects on the M6 between junctions 10 and 12, and between17 and 19, is expected to include all-lane-running (conversion of the hard shoulder to a full-time normal traffic lane) as well as variable speed limits and other signalling technology.

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