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Smart motorways allow lanes to be closed using the gantry signage and inform motorists of live incidents and breakdowns ahead. National Highways is responsible for operating, maintaining, and improving motorways in England. However, a technology fault closed most of England’s smart motorway network for almost four hours in October, increasing the potential risk to motorists who had to stop. Do you support smart motorways? Vote in our poll.
The software failure between 5.45pm and 9.30pm on Wednesday, October 26, affected all smart motorways apart from sections in the south and south east. As a result, the government-owned company’s 122 cameras could not relay to the overhead signs which lanes needed to be closed.
National Highways operations director Duncan Smith said: “During that period our ability to set red X [overhead signs] was switched off, that wasn’t an ideal situation for us but one we managed through other mitigating measures like extra traffic officer patrols on the network. Unfortunately when we were bringing the system back up again we experienced some unexpected faults, that’s why the two hours turn into more like four hours.”
He said the software has to be switched off to conduct essential upgrades but that this takes palace at quiet times, and explained: “I’m not wanting to give the impression that we switch the system off for any other reasons than essential upgrades. Those are absolutely by exception rather than the norm.”
Sarah Champion, Labour MP for Rotherham Central previously said that driers were playing “roulette” when using smart motorways. She said: “We believed National Highways when they said the IT would be there to save us when they took away the hard shoulder. The IT isn’t working. We have data that proves for between two percent and 10 percent of the time the equipment that is meant to alert us to disaster doesn’t work. And that when you think about the number of journeys that we’re making up and down on the M1 on our stretch is really, really chilling.”
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