New investigation finds smart motorway refuge areas are too short

A new investigation conducted by ITV News Meridian has found that a number of emergency refuge areas on smart motorways are too short.

smart motorways

A study has revealed that emergency refuge areas on smart motorways in the UK are not necessarily built to the standard length. 

The study was conducted by ITV News Meridian, who measured the length of 58 different emergency refuge areas across five different smart motorways

Of the 58 measured emergency refuge areas, ITV News Meridian found that 37 were not to the standardised length of 100 metres, which equates to 63.8%.

Specifically, ITV News Meridian’s investigation found that:

  • M23 two out of 12 were at 100 metres or above. One was recorded at 80m.
  • M20 all five are not 100 metres. The minimum 90.97m and the longest at 94.58m
  • M3 – eight out of 12 over 100m. The minimum 95.29m and longest 106.19m
  • M25 (J5 - /7) - two out of 14 are at 100 metres. The minimum 89.74m and longest 102.21m
  • M4 - six out of 13 we were able to measure were below 100 metres. The minimum 94.92m and longest 97.24m

The standard length of 100 metres is so that vehicles can get stopped within the refuge area, and have enough space within it for emergency vehicles to arrive if necessary. Areas built to a shorter length could be compromising the safety of the road users who need to access an emergency refuge area. 

A recent publication from the Motorcycle Action Group regarding autonomous vehicles described motorcyclists as "the only vulnerable road user group that use motorways." As such, compromises to safety on motorways can be seen to be amplified among motorcycle riders.

ITV spoke to Claire Mercer, who started the group Smart Motorways Kill after the death of her husband on the M3 in 2019. She said that people are concerned with the size of emergency refuge areas even to the standard 100-metre length, and that the reality of some not being to that standard length is “very scary.”

National Highways, ITV says in its article on the investigation, told ITV News Meridian that it cannot verify the measurements found in the investigation. ITV also says that National Highways disputes specifically the measurements on the M20 and M23. National Highways says that all of the refuge bays on these two motorways are above 100 metres in length. 

Claire Mercer also raised the issue with ITV of an emergency refuge area being occupied when access is needed by another motorist. 

This issue is amplified by the spacing of the refuge areas. The AA says they should be spaced at 0.75 miles, but in reality they are spaced at 1.5 miles. ITV says that 150 additional refuge areas will be added to smart motorways by 2025 to reassure road users.

Source: ITV News.

2023 Norton Commando 961 Review | Best of British is Back!

2023 Norton Commando 961 Review | Best of British is Back! | Visordown