National Highways makes push on smart motorway emergency areas

15/04/2024
Chris Ames

National Highways has announced plans to install 52 new emergency areas (EAs) on smart motorways in the South East as it faces a battle to meet a promise of 150 by next year.

The government owned company said work on sections of the M25 in Hertfordshire and Essex is due to begin this month but gave no completion date. It also made no mention of the 2025 target date.

As Highways has reported, only 13 new EAs have so far been completed – a figure that National Highways confirmed remains the current total – although work is underway on 22 on the M1 in South Yorkshire and Derbyshire, and 12 on the M6 in Cheshire.

Last month the company announced the start of work ‘in the spring’ on a further 54 EAs (also known as emergency refuge areas, ERAs) on the M1 and M5 motorways in the Midlands.

It said it expected to complete that part of the programme by spring 2025; however, its webpage for the national programme gives no completion date.

The latest announcement includes new EAs on the M25 between junctions 23 and 27 and between junctions 5 and 7, while the M20, M3 M4 will also see additional EAs from late April and early May, with the M27 following ‘later in the summer’.

National Highways first announced the locations for the new EAs last December, when it did reference the 2025 target date.

In its new announcement, the company said that since January 2022, when it committed to building more than 150 EAs ‘progress has been made’ in both designing and delivering the programme.

Project sponsor Felicity Clayton said: ‘Safety is our highest priority and we have listened to drivers' concerns about having more places to stop in an emergency on motorways which don’t have a permanent hard shoulder.

‘This is part of the Government’s £900m investment in further safety improvements on existing smart motorways, which includes adding an additional 150 emergency areas across the network and giving motorists clear advice when using smart motorways to boost public confidence.’

National Highways said the works will see lane one closed throughout construction and a 50mph speed limit put in place.

It added that it is being carefully co-ordinated with major improvements underway on the M25, including junction 28, where the motorway meets the A12 at the Brook Street roundabout in Essex, and at Junction 10 near Wisley.

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