‘Dynamic’ hard shoulder running on smart motorways is to be brought to an end after analysis found it caused confusion and increased the risk of accidents.

In addition, the deployment of radar-based ‘stopped vehicle detection’ will be ramped up across the entire smart motorway network, after government research showed the risk of collisions between moving and stationary vehicles had increased.

Near misses on smart motorways have risen twenty-fold in the past five years to 1,485, compared to 72 near misses on the same stretches of motorway in the previous five years, according to Highways England figures.

An 18-point action plan has now been set out following significant public concerns about their use in England.

Dynamic hard shoulder running, where the hard shoulder is used to increase capacity temporarily, will be phased out by the end of March 2025 and replaced with all-running lanes instead.

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Standards for emergency stopping areas have also been amended so that the distance between them is reduced to a maximum of one mile – and where possible every three quarters of a mile.

The government has also committed to spending an additional £5m on awareness campaigns, to educate drivers on how smart motorways work.

Launching the plan, transport secretary Grant Shapps said the evidence showed “in most ways” the motorways are as safe or safer than conventional ones.

However, he said more could be done to raise the bar on their safety.

The RHA welcomed the action plan and said it had always considered there were too few refuge areas.

Richard Burnett, RHA chief executive added: “We consider it essential that HGV drivers have, mandated into the Driver CPC, a section dedicated to smart motorway use.”

Independent watchdog Transport Focus said it would be pressing Highways England to ensure that the new smart motorway between Reading and Heathrow has additional safety features from day one and that red ‘X’ gantries are also appropriately spaced.

“We know road users are concerned about safety when they think what would happen if they broke down on a motorway with no hard shoulder,” said Anthony Smith, Transport Focus chief executive.

“So we welcome this package of improvements including more technology to detect breakdowns quickly and for there to be extra effort to spread the word about what to do if you break down.”