M27 smart motorway safety fears raised after power failure leaves cameras not working

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276

Visit Shots! now[1]
M27 junction 5 to 7. Pic: National HighwaysM27 junction 5 to 7. Pic: National Highways
M27 junction 5 to 7. Pic: National Highways

An investigation by BBC’s Panorama has revealed hundreds of incidents when crucial safety equipment was out of action. Radar and cameras on smart motorways are meant to boost safety by spotting broken-down vehicles with warning signs meant to close affected lanes. 

The removal of the hard shoulder has sparked fears about the safety of drivers who break down. Overall, smart motorway technology failed more than 400 times over a 17-month period. Data also revealed there were 397 power failures between June 2022 and February this year.

The M27 was among the smart motorways to be impacted by a power outage between junction 5 and 7 on a single day in May last year, the data revealed. The beleaguered section of the motorway, where a lorry driver died in a crash in February, is currently undergoing resurfacing work after complaints over blurred lines.

National Highways has said reinstating the hard shoulder would increase congestion and they have back-up plans to deal with power outages. 

Last year the government announced that it was halting the roll-out of new smart motorways because of cost and safety concerns and is spending £900m on technology to make the existing network safer. There are no plans to put the hard shoulder back.

As reported last week, National Highways said there will be two new emergency areas – or hard shoulders – on the M27 between junctions 4 and 11 that will be put in place during the summer. A further 10 will be added on the M3 between junctions 2 and 4A in Surrey and Hampshire from the end of April to the start of May.

National Highways project sponsor Felicity Clayton said: “Safety is our highest priority and we have listened to drivers’ concerns about having more places to stop in an emergency on motorways which don’t have a permanent hard shoulder. 

“This is part of the Government’s £900 million investment in further safety improvements on existing smart motorways, which includes adding an additional 150 emergency areas across the network and giving motorists clear advice when using smart motorways to boost public confidence.”


  1. ^ Visit Shots! now (www.shotstv.com)