Clampdown on motorists ignoring red X lane closures on smart motorways

Published 12 May 2022
  • National Highways is installing new 95 safety cameras to enable automatic detection of vehicles that ignore red X lane closure signals.
  • Drivers who ignore a a red X sign face a £100 fine and three penalty points.
  • Other safety technology is being fitted to existing smart motorways. 

Motorists who ignore red X lane closures on smart motorways and put lives at risk face a clampdown. 

National Highways, which manages the network, is installing 95 new safety cameras to enable automatic detection of vehicles that ignore red X lane closure signals. The cameras will be live by the end of September.

It is illegal to ignore a lane closure on the motorway and drivers who do so will face a £100 fine and three penalty points on their licence. 

National Highways said the cameras will increase compliance with the red X, helping to ensure the safety of drivers and their passengers in difficulty, or road workers and emergency services who need a safe space to work.

 Lane Closure Motorway

The main concern motorists have about smart motorways, according to National Highways, is breaking down in a live lane, although only ‘a very small proportion of total journeys on any road result in a live lane breakdown’. 

National Highways also expects to complete the roll-out of radar-based technology that can spot a stopped or broken-down vehicle on more than 200 miles of all-lane running motorway by the end of September.

More signs informing drivers of the distance to the next place to stop in the event of a mechanical problem or emergency are also being installed. 

The commitments have been made in the Smart Motorway Stocktake – Second Year Progress Report published by National Highways.

Grant Shapps

The report follows the action plan first published by transport secretary Grant Shapps (pictured) in 2020 and an 'accelerated timetable' published last year.

Nick Harris, chief executive of National Highways, said: “Our network is relied upon by an ever-increasing number of people to work, visit family and friends, do business and much more. It is only right that these drivers and their passengers are safe and, crucially, feel safe on our roads, including smart motorways.

“It is now two years since the transport secretary first published the smart motorway stocktake and today’s report shows that we are making good progress delivering on these ambitious recommendations. But we are not complacent.

"The latest data shows that, overall, in terms of serious or fatal casualties, smart motorways are our safest roads. We are continuing our work to make them our safest roads in every way. We will continue to build on the work already undertaken and continue to put safety first to help ensure drivers have confidence in the motorway network.”

"The key question is whether these changes are enough to reassure drivers." RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes

Reacting to the publication of the second year progress report, RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “While good progress is being made in upgrading existing smart motorways by installing stopped vehicle detection technology and more refuge area signage, the key question is whether these changes are enough to reassure drivers, many of whom firmly believe that removing the hard shoulder compromises safety.

"While the Government is keen to point out that all-lane-running smart motorways tend to have a better overall safety record than conventional motorways, the safety comparisons with other types of smart motorways are less impressive.”

Smart motorways have been heavily criticised by safety campaigners and in January the Government decided to pause their construction until five years' worth of data has been collected.

1What is a smart motorway?

There are three types of smart motorway:

  • All-lane running: the hard shoulder is permanently converted into a live lane and there are emergency refuge areas at regular intervals.
  • Dynamic hard shoulder: the hard shoulder is converted to a live lane at peak times of congestion.
  • Controlled: a motorway with three or more lanes, a hard shoulder and variable speed limits
2Why were smart motorways introduced?

Smart motorways were introduced as a way of managing traffic and easing congestion, without having to widen roads. 

3Where are smart motorways located?

There are around 375 miles of smart motorways on sections of the M1, M3, M4, M5, M6, M20, M23, M25, M27, the M40/M42 interchange, M56 and M62.

Here is a map of the UK's smart motorway network, which is managed by National Highways (formerly Highways England).

Ask HJ

Is a red cross over a smart motorway lane advisory or mandatory?

Is a red cross over a smart motorway lane advisory or mandatory? If it's the latter, what is the offence for driving in it?
The red ‘X’ is used to signify a lane closure on smart motorways. It’s a mandatory notice that has a penalty of £100 and three penalty points if ignored:
Answered by Dan Powell
More Questions
Ask HJ

What should we do if we break down in the live lane of a Smart motorway?

What should we do if we break down in the live lane of a Smart motorway? Should we ring 999, for example?
If you experience a problem on a Smart Motorway then you should try and exit the motorway at the next available junction or motorway services. If this isn’t possible, pull over and stop at one of the emergency lay-bys, which are marked with blue signs featuring an orange SOS telephone symbol. If you experience a sudden mechanical breakdown and cannot get to an emergency lay-by, switch on your hazard warning lights and try to steer the vehicle towards the left hand side of the road and onto the grass verge. When the vehicle stops on the verge, leave the hazard lights on and (when safe to do so) instruct everyone to exit the vehicle via the nearside (left hand side) doors and wait behind the safety barrier. You should then call Highways England on 0300 123 5000. If it’s not possible to exit your vehicle safely or you feel your life is in danger, put your hazard warning lights on, stay in your vehicle with your seat belt on and dial 999.
Answered by Dan Powell
More Questions


   on 12 May 2022

Increase the fine to £10000 and then remove all so called smart motorways

SM 41    on 12 May 2022

The live lane project is not fit for purpose,shapps should hang his head,the govt can't expect and shouldn't expect all people to obey any signs on live lane,if people think they cn get ahead of other cars by using a live lane with an x they will,one person dying in a live lane is one to many let alone the 63 poor people that have lost there lives,SCRAP THEM NOW AND JAIL SHAPPS FOR MANSLAUGHTER.

NickNike    on 12 May 2022

When I first started driving you jumped in a car, no seat belts, and so long as you kept to the speed limits, driving was fun. It's a nerve wracking nightmare now, with the motorist over monitored and supressed. Scrap all cameras, yellow lines and all traffic lights. Not joking, has some respect Government for drivers who generally are intelligent enough to behave themselves. We did in the 1960s when traffic lights were few and far between and we parked sensibly in town. No wonder the high street is dead.

Contax139    on 13 May 2022

I also started driving early 60's, far fewer vehicles on roads, vehicles much slower, no motorways in most areas, lots of police patrols that would book you if you never applied the handbrake at a stop junction, parked with wheel on kerb, parked facing wrong way in dark and had to display parking lights at night, patrol cars hid behind bushes to catch speeders and running round in unmarked mini coopers to catch speeders. I would vote for higher tax and fines to cover cost of bringing back all those strict patrols to catch todays useless sloppy drivers, a lot would lose licences.

jchinuk    on 13 May 2022

I'd quibble that drivers are "generally intelligent enough" to be trusted.

There was a set of temporary traffic on my road last month, at least once in every three changes some muppet three or four cars back in the queue decided they were too important to wait and overtook the stopped cars and run the red light.

I assume that all other drivers are homicidal maniacs out to kill me until they prove otherwise.

I do live in London.

Contax139    on 13 May 2022

Agree increase for ignoring these signs or ban them for first offence, keep the smart motorways as it's only drivers that cause accidents.

christopher caddy    on 13 May 2022

What problem do people have in obeying laws, use a lane if it is open & stick to the speed limits. I do agree sometimes it seems like some ones bored in the office and just wants to annoy drivers setting silly reduced speeds, when there’s no congestion. But so be it. I used to hate them, when I was charging around thinking I needed to get everywhere in a hurry, now I just allow more time and just stick to below the speed limit. I don’t need to worry about cameras then. Also find now I’m hardly ever in the fast lane which is where I used to spend most of my life before. Days are so much less stressful now.

yaesu    on 13 May 2022

What is a "fast lane?"
There is no such thing, they are overtaking lanes.
Having just returned from a journey involving 600 miles plus on the motor way network it's not the road that's the problem it's the atrocious standard of driving.
Last minute lane changes without any signals, so close together at speed it's frightening, driving over the hatched area at junctions, I could go on but what's the point, few will listen.
It's not the smart motorway that's the main problem it's the unsmart driver.

amn    on 13 May 2022

Long overdue

Graham Saunders    on 13 May 2022

If I broke down on a smart motorway I would steer to the right and get as far onto the central reservation as possible. I think I would prefer to be hit by a 2 ton car that has more potential to significantly reduce it's kinetic energy than by a 40+ ton truck with a drastically less chance of doing the same. A car in the right hand lane would also be more monoueverabie and would have more chance of taking avoiding action with less incursion into other lanes than a 40+ ton truck confronted by a stationary vehicle in it''s path.

WilliamRead    on 13 May 2022

Will dashcam footage be accepted as part of the enforcement these rules, as it is for others? A car in lane 2 or 3 that has stopped for the Red X would be well placed to photograph those on the outer lane ignoring the Red X.

John of Gloster    on 13 May 2022

Smart Motorways by their very design are "Killers"

No doubt the public sector types who thought up these so called Smart Motorways will be in line for Knighthoods and other gongs.

I avoid them like the plague they are.

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