New smart motorways are to be scrapped due to “financial pressures” and lack of public confidence in their safety.

The government said this meant 11 schemes currently paused from the second road investment strategy and three more earmarked for construction during the third road investment strategy, which runs from 2025 to 2030, are to be abandoned.

Initial estimates suggest building all of these schemes would cost the taxpayer more than £1bn. The government said cancelling these schemes meant it had more time to “track public confidence in smart motorways over a longer period.”

Transport secretary Mark Harper MP said: “We want the public to know that this government is listening to their concerns.

“This announcement means no new smart motorways will be built, recognising the lack of public confidence felt by drivers and the cost pressures due to inflation.”

In February, MP Sarah Champion, whose constituent Jason Mercer was killed by an HGV on a stretch of smart motorway on the M1 in South Yorkshire, said the government had more than tripled the likelihood of serious accidents occurring by increasing capacity “on the cheap”.

Champion said that after “much kicking and screaming”, National Highways had released data showing that the rates of fatal accidents involving stationary vehicles on all-lanes running motorways was more than three times higher than roads with safety features but maintaining the use of the hard shoulder – so-called ‘controlled motorways’.

Mercer’s widow Claire Mercer has campaigned for the wholesale abandonment of all smart motorways.
Following the government’s announcement, she said: “The fight is not over. The campaigning and protesting - no glue or coloured powder to be used - will continue until we have the hard shoulder back on every motorway.”