We had a large family get together in Formby, north of Liverpool at Christmas and decided to drive up there on the Sunday beforehand.
We left Hertfordshire late morning expecting a steady, leisurely drive in an E class Estate kindly lent to me by our friends at Fastlane.
The Mercedes was brilliant, comfortable and very roomy. It had recorded only 6000 miles and the computer stated that it’s average mpg from new had been 49.5 mpg!
Quite remarkable for such a large vehicle, and a great indicator where technology was going with Diesel engines.
Anyway, the drive towards our destination soon began to worry us; first of all ‘roadworks’ and an accident in Hertfordshire; more ‘roadworks’ in Northamptonshire; chaos with more ‘roadworks’ approaching the outskirts of Birmingham; and the final stretch on the M6 was about 50 miles of stop/ start because of more ‘roadworks’.
We started a game in the car to pass the time, it was called ‘I spy with my little eye a workman on the motorway’.
The prize for the first person to spot one was a months stay in a 6 star hotel in Monte Carlo paid for by me. Unsurprisingly, nobody won it!
We eventually arrived at our destination and I’m delighted to say that we all had a wonderful time over Christmas, with superb food, too much drink, and great company.
The return trip however was even more horrendous than the trip up – heavier traffic making these ‘roadworks’ more of a hazard, causing more accidents and of course slowing the journey time down considerably.
It was remarkable how the journey started off with 3 happy passengers in the car, who after numerous hours of slow moving traffic, with no good reason as to why we were being delayed, turned into 3 tired raving lunatics, apparently close relatives of Hannibal Lecter, who quickly found fault with everything and everybody around them (especially the driver!)
The main reason for these roadworks was preparation for the introduction of these new ‘Smart Motorways’.
What are ‘Smart Motorways’ did I hear you ask?
According to the Governments own website :-
“Smart motorways use technology to actively manage the flow of traffic. The technology is controlled by a regional traffic control Centre. The control Centres monitor traffic carefully and can activate and change signs and speed limits. This helps keep traffic flowing freely”.
So what will change and how will it effect us normal mortals?
As far as I understand there are three major changes;
1. ‘All lane running scheme’ – this means that all the motorway lanes will remain open at all times, and means that controversially the hard shoulder is removed to enable free flowing traffic. The theory is that this idea is a better and cheaper option than widening the motorway.
2. ‘Dynamic hard shoulder running schemes’ – this is where the Control Centre opens up the hard shoulder for use at peak congestion times.
This decision is viewed by many as risky, as motorists will have nowhere to escape to in the event of a breakdown.
3. ‘Controlled Motorways’ – this is where variable speed limits are controlled and monitored remotely. Sensors inserted in the tarmac will also detect when there has been an incident/ issue and will automatically change the message on the motorway gantry regarding lane closure or speed reductions.
The other ‘worrying’ news for some of us is that the chances of getting caught for speeding on these new ‘Smart motorways’ will be considerably higher – with many more cameras and variable speed limits for us to contend with.
Plus, it’s not only speeding you will need to watch out for – ignore a red ‘X’ sign (I.e. don’t use this lane), from summer 2019 you will be caught on camera and receive a fine or get points on your license for breaking the law.
We will see what happens, but I think had our economy been in a better shape we may well have ended up with wider, better motorways, which could then have used some of these ‘Smart’ options .
I would also have someone relook at learner drivers and motorway driving. As it always been, learners don’t receive any motorway experience at all before gaining their full driving license, so I’m sure a lack of practical experience on motorway driving can inevitably lead to poor driving habits with all drivers.
Reset your sat nav to the A roads option !