Smart Motorways

2nd March 2020

Motorways throughout the UK are being turned in to smart motorways these parts of the motorway network use technology to help keep the traffic moving by changing signs that can close lanes and have variable speed limits to help keep the flow of traffic moving smoothly.

There are three types of smart motorway in the UK

  • Dynamic hard Shoulder – This becomes a temporary extra lane during busy periods to help make traffic flow.
  • All Lane Running – where the full width of the road is used for traffic with emergency refuge areas.
  • Controlled Motorway – with three or more lanes, a hard shoulder and variable speed limits.

These technology-enabled sections of motorways have enhancements such as:

  • electronic signs that display Red X signs and variable speed limits or instruction of lane closure.
  • sensors that monitor traffic volumes.
  • CCTV for monitoring the motorway.
  • emergency areas, with emergency roadside telephones for assistance.


Source: Highways England

Smart Motorway Tips

  • Never drive in a lane closed by a Red X as this lane could be closed because of a accident or broken down vehicle.
  • Keep to the speed limits shown on the signs as most of the smart motorways have speed cameras.
  • A hard shoulder is always identified by a solid white unbroken line – if there’s no speed limit displayed above it or a Red X is displayed, do not use it.
  • If the hard shoulder is being used as an extra lane, remember to use the designated emergency refuge areas for emergencies.
  • If your vehicle experiences difficulties, eg warning light, if possible exit the motorway immediately or a emergency refuge area.
  • If you do break down then put your hazard lights on to warn other motorists and highway patrol officers when passing
  • Most breakdowns are preventable – make sure to check your tyres have no defects, if at nighttime that all your lights ere working properly and that you have enough fuel for your journey.