Britpave: The British In-Situ Concrete Paving Association

Rise In Traffic Supports Smart Motorway Programme

Increased traffic levels reinforce the government’s moves to turn more hard shoulders into extra lanes as part of their smart motorway programme, believes Britpave, the transport infrastructure group.

New figures from the Department for Transport show that motorway traffic has increased twice as fast as that for other types of roads. Over the last 20 years it has grown by nearly 60% with vehicles travelling 67.4 billion over the last year. In response to this, Highways England are forwarding smart motorways as a way to better manage traffic and to increase capacity.

Smart motorways involves active traffic management using electronic signs, CCTV monitoring, variable speed limits and hard shoulder running. The aim is to have better traffic management and to increase capacity by allowing the hard shoulder to be used as an extra lane during peak times. Highways England has a £1.5 billion programme to turn congested stretches of the UK motorway network into smart motorways that includes adding 300 miles of extra lane capacity by turning the hard shoulder into a traffic lane.

“Use of the hard shoulder as an extra lane is a cost-effective way to increase motorway capacity. However, there is concern that the hard shoulder lanes may not have the adequate strength to cope with heavy goods vehicles,” said John Donegan, Chair of the Britpave Roads Task Group. “On a typical UK motorway 77% of all HGV traffic uses the inside lane. This means that with a smart motorway the hard shoulder will be under intense pressure that it may have not been designed and constructed for. The result could be premature failure with ongoing maintenance and repair.”

Britpave has developed guidance for smart motorway construction and the solution forwarded is to design and construct the hard shoulder as a concrete pavement specifically to cope with the concentration of HGV traffic. This provides the necessary strength and long-term performance. “Concrete has up to 4 times the strength and stiffness of asphalt and has no rutting susceptibility. Roads where the main structure is concrete are designed to last for a minimum of 40 years without major maintenance thus ensuring less disruption and more reliable journeys,” said Donegan.

‘Smart motorway construction with concrete’ is available as a download from the Britpave website,, £10 for non- members, free for Britpave members.