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Government scraps Smart motorways programme

Eleven projects already paused and three more earmarked for construction during the third Road Investment Strategy (2025 to 2030) will be removed from government road-building plans.

Announcing the decision over the weekend the Department of Transport blamed financial pressures and the current lack of public confidence about safe operation of Smart motorway recovery systems.

While no new stretches of road will be converted into smart motorways, the M56 J6-8 and M6 J21a-26 will be completed given they are already over three-quarters constructed.

The government and National Highways has also committed to continue to invest £900m in further safety improvements on existing smart motorways.

This includes installing 150 extra emergency areas across the network as well as further improving the performance of stopped vehicle detection technology on every all-lane running smart motorway.

The government will also continue to give motorists clear advice when using existing smart motorways.

Initial estimates suggest constructing future smart motorway schemes would have cost more than £1bn.

While figures are not publicly available the Smart motorway programme was beset by cost overruns even before rampant cost inflation began to bite last year.

There were also several investigations into procurement and payment practices on the programme.

Concerns about smart motorway projects are understood to have spurred National Highways last year to order its main contractors to spell out their anti-fraud and corruption policies amid concern about potential problems on major roads projects.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “Today’s announcement means no new smart motorways will be built, recognising the lack of public confidence felt by drivers and the cost pressures due to inflation.”