Paul Barker's blog - 3 March: Not smart enough
03 May 2016
I needed to do a late-night run around the M25 from Sussex to the Midlands, recently, and was left with the blood-boiling frustration that only through good fortune and an inability to trust authority did not add unnecessary miles and time to my trip.
From around junction 10 the overhead information signs were saying the M25 was shut at junction 16, the turning I was aiming for to point the car north up the M40.
Having carefully considered my options, I worked out I didn't have many, as the M3 was also shut (for roadworks, I presume.), so I decided to sit it out and hope for the best. Which was the right option because at junction 16 there was no sign that anything out of the ordinary was happening, so I sailed onto the M40 unhindered.
So what on earth is the point in these signs? Giving no information is better than giving incorrect info, so they're actually causing more trouble. It was like the work experience boy had been left in charge, or someone had ducked back to work on the way home from the pub.
And that's before I get onto the amount of times the overhead gantries show 60mph, 50mph or even 40mph limits on free-flowing clear motorways. Drivers are rapidly losing respect for these smart motorway systems when they are clearly incapable of understanding what is going on. When the limits are dropped for breakdowns or accidents, they still stay in place once you're past the obstruction, and anecdotally, I'm seeing increasing numbers of cars driving at higher speeds between gantries and then braking heavily for where cameras are most likely to be positioned.
In principle, smart motorways are a good thing to help keep traffic flowing freely, but only if sensible, smart people are making the right decisions.