The RAC has called for the reintroduction of hard shoulders on existing smart motorways, following the government’s decision to end the rollout of all-lane-running carriageways. Last week, the government confirmed it would cancel all new ‘smart motorway’ schemes, but existing stretches – and those almost completed – would remain.

In total, the RAC says there are 235 miles of existing all-lane-running smart motorways, and the government has promised new safety initiatives for them. But the RAC wants the hard shoulder to be replaced on these roads, despite the government’s assertion that doing so would be too costly and “too disruptive”.

However, an RAC survey has revealed seven in 10 motorists (69 percent) want the hard shoulder to be reinstated on the roads that currently do not have them. Just 31 percent of respondents to the study said the roads in question should be left as they are.

UK smart motorway network

As a result, the RAC has called on the government to bring the hard shoulders back on existing all-lane-running roads, which have courted controversy ever since their introduction. The safety of these stretches of motorway, which see the hard shoulder replaced with a ‘live’ lane to increase capacity, has been in question numerous times in recent years, and the AA has run a long campaign to see their rollout ended.

Now, the RAC has said the government should go further than its initial plan to scrap new schemes, saying it’s “clear the government has lost faith” in smart motorways. And the motoring organisation says its survey shows the public agree with its stance on the issue.

UK smart motorway network

“While we’re pleased the government reached the same conclusion that many drivers already have by cancelling future smart motorway schemes by the end of this year, there will still be 250 miles of motorway in England without hard shoulders – that’s around 13 percent of the complete network,” said RAC road safety spokesman Simon Williams. “Installing additional refuge areas and radar technology to help spot stricken vehicles is welcome and necessary, but for most drivers this doesn’t go far enough. It remains the case that anyone unlucky enough to break down who can’t get to an emergency refuge area remains incredibly vulnerable where the hard shoulder has been taken out.

“The government claims that reinstating the hard shoulder would ‘come at a significant cost’ and be ‘too disruptive’ but our research shows drivers clearly don’t buy this. Will the driving public accept anything less than the return of the hard shoulder?”