The M3 ‘smart motorway’ has opened in Surrey and Hampshire following a £174m upgrade.
The work, first started in late 2014, has turned the hard shoulder into a fourth lane along a 13.4-mile stretch between Farnborough and the M25.
Announcing that the upgrade had been completed on time, Pranav Devale, project manager for Highways England, said: “This new stretch of smart motorway will tackle congestion and improve journey times for the 130,000 drivers who use it every day.
“Smart motorways add vital extra capacity, improve journey times and maintain high levels of safety. Drivers will also see better information about conditions on the road ahead and enjoy smoother journeys on the fully resurfaced road – as well as the smart motorway upgrade, we have also been carrying out the most extensive maintenance on the M3 since it was first built in 1971 in parallel with the smart motorway works.”
However, newly released research from the AA finds that two-fifths (38%) of drivers say they won’t drive on hard shoulders converted into running lanes, of which more than a third (37%) said they feared coming across a broken down vehicle while one in ten (13%) said that they believed lane one was ‘the lorry lane’.
Edmund King, AA president, said: “Drivers are fearful that, with the current lack of Emergency Refuge Areas, they will come across broken down vehicles and have little chance of avoiding collisions.
“We need more education for drivers using smart motorways and clearly they do not trust the schemes in their current state.”
Work to test and commission the new smart motorway technology will continue for a short period, with the fully upgraded road opening to traffic later in July. A 50mph limit is in place for safety reasons while this work is carried out.