The rollout of smart motorways is set to be paused across the country - the Government has announced.
No new smart motorway schemes will begin until after five years of traffic safety data is available for upgraded stretches completed before 2020.
Announcing the move, the Department for Transport added work on schemes already under construction will continue.
Read More: M4 weekend closures in January 2022 you'll want to avoid if you can
This includes the scheme to convert the stretch of the M4 motorway between Junction 3 (Hayes) and Junction 12 ( Theale ) in Berkshire into a smart motorway.
That £848m project, which sees stretches of the motorway in Berkshire subject to weekend closures, is currently scheduled to be completed in 2022 after work started in 2018.
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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “One of my first actions as Transport Secretary was to order a stocktake of smart motorways and since then, I have worked consistently to raise the bar on their safety. I am grateful to the Transport Committee and to all those who provided evidence for its work.
“While our initial data shows that smart motorways are among the safest roads in the UK, it’s crucial that we go further to ensure people feel safer using them.
“Pausing schemes yet to start construction and making multi-million-pound improvements to existing schemes will give drivers confidence and provide the data we need to inform our next steps. I want thank safety campaigners, including those who have lost loved ones, for rightly striving for higher standards on our roads. I share their concerns.”
The Government maintains smart motorways 'are comparatively the safest roads in the country in terms of fatality rates' - but that it would work to ensure smart motorways had 'best-in-class technology and resources to make them as safe as possible'.
This will include more than 150 new emergency areas across the network for drivers who have got into difficulty - an increase of around 50 per cent by 2025.
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The Government set to 'assess the data and make an informed decision on next steps' once enough data is available before rolling out the smart motorway scheme to new stretches of the road.
National Highways CEO Nick Harris said: "We have listened to public concerns about smart motorways and we are fully committed to taking forward the additional measures the Transport Committee has recommended.
“While we pause those all lane running schemes yet to start construction we will complete the schemes currently in construction, we will make existing sections as safe as they can possibly be and we will step up our advice to drivers so they have all the information they need.
“We are doing this because safety is our absolute priority and we want drivers to not just be safer, but also to feel safe on our busiest roads.”
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