Emergency Refuge Area: Cold Shoulder For The Hard Shoulder

Emergency Refuge Area: Cold Shoulder For The Hard Shoulder

Replacing the hard shoulder with the emergency refuge area is becoming common across the UK’s roads.

Why the rise in Emergency Refuge Areas?

In 2015, the Department for Transport forecast a growth in traffic of up to 60% from 2010 to 2040 on the Strategic Road Network. One scenario showed that up to 19.5% of the Strategic Road Network could become congested by 2040. In light of this data, Highways England launched schemes to test ways to combat the growing congestion.

The Strategic Road Network refers to roads not maintained by local authority, motorways and the largest A-roads.

What is an Emergency Refuge Area?

From as early as 2006, Highways England schemes have tested the hard shoulder as an extra lane for traffic either permanently or at peak times. The schemes have been received with a mixed reception.

On all-lane running motorways, in the event of a breakdown you must attempt to reach an emergency refuge area (ERA). ERA’s are a maximum of 1.5 miles apart from each other. As a rule of thumb, you’ll pass one every 60-75 seconds if you’re travelling at 60-70mph. Unless your wheels fall off, it’s likely in the event of a breakdown you can make it to an ERA.

But if it is possible to break down before reaching the ERA, people will breakdown before the ERA. Breaking down in a live motorway lane with nowhere to fully pull over is a new and very scary prospect for UK drivers. Many driving agencies, The AA, RAC, have stressed their concerns and feel more needs to be done to educate drivers.

Once the regional traffic control centre is aware of your situation, via the police or roadside technology such as CCTV, they can use the smart motorway technology to set overhead signs and close the lane to help keep traffic away from you. They will also send a traffic officer or the police to help you.

Find the list of smart motorways already in operation as well as those planned for the future.

How do you feel about Emergency Refuge Areas?

The thought of being broken down in a live motorway lane even for a couple of seconds is pretty terrifying. Driving agencies recommend exiting on the passenger side of your vehicle as quickly as possible. But for the elderly, disabled and drivers carrying children, this may not be realistic.

With more than 500 miles of smart motorways already open, and many more schemes to be introduced before 2025, should more be done to optimise driver safety?

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