ORR’s new safety report to include review of smart motorways safety systems and assessment of National Highways’ overall safety performance

3 November 2022
This blog explains our work on a new safety report due to be published in December 2022. We expect the first edition to cover both our progress with the Transport Select Committee’s (TSC) recommendations on smart motorways and National Highways’ safety performance on the Strategic Road Network (SRN).
Adam Spencer-Bickle
Adam Spencer-Bickle
Head of Economics and Policy, Highways, ORR
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Smart motorway in England

We hold National Highways to account for its management of the SRN – the motorways and main A roads in England. Since 2020, our responsibilities also include scrutinising how National Highways is delivering on the actions in the Department for Transport’s (DfT's) smart motorway evidence stock take and action plan, aimed at improving safety on smart motorways.

Recommendations from the TSC’s smart motorways inquiry 

In November 2021 the TSC published the outcome of its inquiry into the rollout and safety of smart motorways. As part of the recommendations, ORR is leading on: 

  • Recommendation 4: Conducting an independent evaluation of the effectiveness and operation of stopped vehicle detection technology and other safety systems in place including maintenance and monitoring.
  • Recommendation 6: Evaluating the success of the action plan in; reducing incidences of live lane breakdowns on all-lane running motorways; reducing the time for which people who breakdown or stop in a live lane are at risk, and educating drivers on what to do if they breakdown in a live lane

Following a commissioning phase over the summer, we have begun our work on recommendations 4 and 6 which we see as a long-term area of work to take forward over several years. We recognise the importance of keeping the public informed and so will report regularly on our progress throughout.

This will include an initial progress update as part of a new safety report that we plan to publish in December 2022. We expect the format and content of our report to evolve as we develop our work on recommendations 4 and 6.

ORR is also supporting DfT in its review of introducing changes to the design and operation of the Strategic Road Network, depending on a formal health and safety assessment by ORR (Recommendation 1).

New safety report to be published

Our new annual safety report will also review National Highways’ overall safety performance on the Strategic Road Network. Because of the timing of the release of STATS19 – the official data on the number of people killed and injured on our roads – we have previously published our assessment of National Highways’ performance against its primary safety target (to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on the network) separately from our main annual assessment of the company’s performance.  

Our new safety report provides us with an opportunity to bring our scrutiny of STATS19 data, and the company’s overall safety performance, together with our other safety-related activities.

As our work develops, this will provide all our stakeholders, including those who use and are affected by the SRN, with a more accessible picture of our road safety work.