Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the conclusion of the Government safety review today, which will see 18 new measures introduced at a cost of several hundreds of millions of pounds.
The move will lift the moratorium of Smart motorway building, which stalled two north west schemes that were ready to start.
These include Galliford Try’s £90m M56 job near Manchester Airport and Costain’s £150m M6 contract between Warrington and Wigan.
Among the fresh measures for smart motorways, the Government is considering a national programme to install more emergency areas where places to stop are more than one mile apart.
Highways England will be instructed to reduce the distance between places to stop in an emergency to 3/4 of a mile where feasible so that on future schemes motorists should typically reach one every 45 seconds at 60mph.
On the M25, an additional 10 ERAs are to be introduced on sections of smart motorway with a higher rate of live lane stops and where places to stop in an emergency are furthest apart.
The initial smart motorways pilot project set ERAs at 600m but when the programme began to be rolled out refuges were placed up 2.5 miles apart.
Shapps said: “The overall evidence shows that in most ways smart motorways are as safe or safer than conventional ones. But they are not in every way.
“Therefore, I am launching an extended package of measures – an action plan – to raise the bar on smart motorway safety.”
He said that the Government would abolish confusing “dynamic hard shoulder” smart motorways, where the hard shoulder operates only part-time and is a live running lane the rest of the time.
Highways England will also accelerate its plans and install “stopped vehicle detection” technology within the next 36 months.
ERAs are also to be made more visible with a bright orange road surface and dotted lines on the surfacing to show where to stop.
There will also be better and more frequent signs on approach and signs inside giving information on what to do in an emergency.
These will be installed by the end of spring 2020.