Highways England has opened its first new-style high visibility emergency refuge area (ERA) on an all lane running ‘smart motorway’ scheme.
The new ERA, with an orange road surface and better signs to help improve its visibility, is being trialled on the M3 in Surrey, where Highways England has opened an all lane running scheme two weeks ago without smart motorway technology.
The new refuge area on the M3
Highways England said it plans to upgrade more refuges if the trial is successful.
Chief executive Jim O’Sullivan said: ‘We recognise the public concern about smart motorways and we also believe that changes such as these will help drivers have confidence when using them and be clear about where they can stop in an emergency.
‘That is why we are trialling these highly visible new style emergency areas. The bright orange colouring will make them as easy as possible to spot and should also discourage drivers from using them in non-emergency situations.'
The trial is part of an ongoing review into the design and spacing of ERAs on smart motorways that is due to report in the autumn.
Smart motorways use variable speed limits to manage traffic and – more recently – involve converting the hard shoulder into an extra traffic lane, known as all lane running.
Highways England says smart motorways are just as safe as conventional motorways but their safety has proved controversial.
The Government-owned company said the redesigned ERA is part of its drive to improve awareness of smart motorway driving and sits alongside a national TV, radio and social media campaign covering key themes such as not driving in lanes closed by Red X signs.