Smart Arse


Motorways used to be Britain’s fastest roads but not any more. These days you’re lucky if you can go faster than 50mph.

I’ve been spending my weekends on the M1 and M6 lately because I’ve been driving between Hertfordshire and the North West. It feels as if most of that time I’m driving in roadworks.

The signs say that the work is to convert the roads into “smart motorways”. In case you didn’t know, a “smart” motorway is one that has the hard shoulder converted into an extra lane, variable speed limits and stealth speed cameras. It takes around two years to convert a normal motorway into a “smart” one.

I wouldn’t mind if these new kind of motorways would fix the congestion problems but they won’t. Britain’s first full-length motorway, the M1, opened in 1959. It had three lanes in each direction. The engineers who designed it, estimated traffic of 20,000 vehicles per day. Now it carries up to 140,000 vehicles a day. So there’s seven times more traffic on it now than it was designed for. That means to bring it back to it’s design specification, the M1 today would have to have seven times as many lanes as in 1959 so twenty-one lanes in each direction. 

Two years of miserable roadworks will give us one extra lane in each direction, no hard shoulder, variable speed limits and more speed cameras but won’t actually fix the problem, how is that smart?

Craic on!

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