Smart motorway safety system fails after ‘unplanned outage’

A smart motorway safety system failed across much of England on Wednesday, National Highways has admitted.

The Dynac system – which includes signs, signals and stopped vehicle detection technology – stopped working at around 8.30am on Wednesday.

The fault occurred across the whole of England’s smart motorway network except in the East and South East.

It was not resolved until approximately 10.30am.

AA president Edmund King claimed drivers in vehicles that had broken down in live lanes were “sitting ducks” during that period.

The cause of the problem is under investigation.

There have been long-standing safety fears following fatal incidents in which vehicles stopped in live lanes on smart motorways without a hard shoulder were hit from behind.

National Highways operational control director Andrew Page-Dove said: “We are urgently investigating an unplanned outage of our traffic management system that took place this morning.

“Engineers worked hard to get the system back online as soon as possible and we apologise for any inconvenience caused.

“We have well-rehearsed procedures to deal with issues which arise.

“We rapidly took steps to help ensure the safety of road users such as increased patrols and CCTV monitoring.”

Mr King said: “So-called smart motorways cease to be smart when the technology fails, and drivers in dangerous live-lane situations are left as sitting ducks.

“Road users can only have confidence in the systems if the technology works.

“That’s clearly not the case with the outage today.”

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “This is deeply concerning. Drivers and our patrols rely on these systems to keep them safe in the event of a breakdown on a live lane.”

The PA news agency understands there were no major incidents or serious congestion during the incident.

Smart motorway safety systems previously suffered an outage lasting several hours on October 26.

The latest fault came as the Government was urged to end the use of all-lane running smart motorways, which do not have a hard shoulder.

Labour MP for Rotherham Sarah Champion, whose constituent Jason Mercer was killed on a smart motorway in South Yorkshire in 2019, said there had been a “series of outages” on the network but the roads continued to be built, despite the Government ordering a pause in new developments.

“By spring of this year, four new sections of all-lane-running motorways will begin operation,” she said.

“While the Government dithers, constituencies like mine continue to host death trap roads.”

Roads minister Richard Holden said new stretches of smart motorway which had been under construction before the pause were continuing because “it was felt by National Highways it would be more detrimental” to stop them “and perhaps cause more incidents than if they continued as planned”.

He acknowledged that the risk of a collision involving a broken-down vehicle was a “major concern” for drivers.