M25 smart motorway fails again just days after deadly crash

A whistle-blower has lifted the lid on a catalogue of failings with smart motorway network, including one that failed to detect a fatal crash


A series of internal emails from Highways England have revealed that all is not well with the UK’s smart motorway network. Indeed, the issues have become bad enough that sections of the M25 are now effective blind spots on the network.

The issues mentioned in this article relate to the M25 between junctions 23 to 27. The problem stems from the Stopped Vehicle Detection system (SVD) that should detect a stopped vehicle, allowing the control room to close the lane with red ‘X’.

Now, emails obtained by the Daily Mail paint a horrifying picture, with sections of the road becoming effectively blind to any stopped vehicles. The outage comes just days after the SVD system failed to prevent a crash that claimed the life of Pulvinder Dhillon. She was the passenger in a car on the M4 that broke down in a live lane. Yet again, the failings of the technology seem to be at the heart of the incident.

The paper reports that emails it has seen show that Highways England staff are plagued with similar outages on the smart motorway network. With staff seeing errors and outages so much, they don’t actually have the time to report the error. Indeed, at the time of the M25 outage, staff within the control centre had an issue of their own. A bug prevented an alert from being broadcast to the staff, meaning they had no warning of an incident they could react to.

Should Smart Motorways be scrapped?

As the catalogue of failings grows and the death toll mounts, the cry for smart motorways to be scrapped altogether grows louder and louder. And it isn’t just the public that are longing for them to be returned to normal. Politicians on all sides have this week again called the ‘fatal’ scheme to be axed, once and for all.

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