Smart motorways

Congestion on the motorway and major road network in England costs an estimated £2 billion every year, with 25 per cent of this resulting from incidents. So cutting congestion creates economic benefits for the region and the country as a whole.

In our business plan we laid out our plans to make your journeys more reliable. This includes adding more than 4,000 miles of extra capacity through smart motorways.

Smart motorways relieve congestion by making the hard shoulder available for use by traffic. On some smart motorways the hard shoulder is opened at busy times. On others it is permanently converted into a traffic lane (known as all-lane running). Regularly spaced refuge areas are used for emergencies - driving at 60mph you will reach a place you can stop in an emergency every 75 seconds on average.

Smart motorways use pioneering technology to:

  • monitor traffic levels
  • change the speed limit to smooth traffic flow, reduce frustrating stop-start driving and improve journey times
  • activate warning signs to alert you to traffic jams and hazards up ahead
  • close lanes – for example to allow emergency vehicles through

Smart motorways mean increased road capacity faster and at less cost than traditional road widening schemes. They remain within current motorway boundaries, minimising the environmental 'footprint' of the scheme. And they're just as safe – often safer.

We already have evidence of the benefits that a smart motorway scheme can bring. The first smart motorway scheme (known then as a 'managed motorway') opened to traffic on the M42 motorway in 2006. Analysis of data gathered since opening has found that:

  • journey reliability improved by 22 per cent
  • personal injury accidents reduced by more than half
  • where accidents did occur, severity was much lower overall with zero fatalities and fewer seriously injured

Learn how to drive on a smart motorway.



Traffic conditions

The latest updates on closures and traffic conditions on England’s motorway and major roads network.


The latest updates for roadworks on England’s motorway and major roads network.

Breaking News: Traffic Information

Breaking News

The latest current breaking news items for England's motorway network

The M5 through the West Country is currently experiencing severe delays southbound.
Posted: August 8, 2020, 1:44 pm


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