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Additional safety measures needed before M4 smart motorway can operate

The M4 smart motorways project will not start operating until new technology is installed to detect stopped drivers, Highways England has confirmed.

The motorway is undergoing a major overhaul which will see the hard shoulder converted to a traffic lane between junctions 3 and 12.

But fears have been raised over the safety of the £848 million scheme when drivers break down in a live traffic lane, leaving themselves vulnerable to oncoming cars.

A report published by Highways England this week said that all new smart motorways schemes, including those under construction, will be fitted with radar SVD (stopped vehicle detection) technology before they open.

This aims to identify stopped vehicles within 20 seconds and provide an alert to the control room while also displaying a warning message for drivers.

Highways England has pledged to install these additional safety measures by September 2022, six months earlier than planned.

In a written statement to Parliament, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Great Britain has some of the safest roads in the world and, although per one hundred million miles driven there are fewer deaths on smart motorways than conventional ones, we are determined to do all we can to help drivers feel safer and be safer on our roads.”

He added: “Radar-based stopped vehicle detection technology will now be installed on all operational ALR motorways by September 2022, six months earlier than planned.

“Highways England has also made a commitment that no ALR motorways will open without radar technology to spot stopped vehicles, enable lanes to be closed where necessary and get help to drivers quickly.”

A spokesman for Highways England said it is expecting to fully reopen the upgraded M4, including stopped vehicle detection technology, later this year.

A statement from the organisation added: “We are grateful for people’s patience while we complete this work.”

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