In recent years, ‘managed motorways’ have been introduced to help keep the flow of traffic moving at the right pace, and to make driving/riding conditions as safe as possible. Here, GEM Motoring Assist  sheds some light on what exactly managed motorways are, where they can be found, and how they can affect your journey for the better.

What are managed motorways?

Managed motorways are stretches of usually very busy motorway that have undergone major modification in an attempt to relieve congestion at busy times. The two key components to a stretch of managed motorway are variable speed limits and the use of the hard shoulder as an extra lane.

Do they work?


Figures from the Highways Agency in 2011 show that there was a 55% reduction in personal injury collisions since the introduction of managed motorways. So they can help make your journey safer. Variable speed limits are set by a computer, based on traffic flow, and assist in keeping the motorway moving at the most appropriate speed.

Once a stretch becomes ‘managed’, is it always active? How will I know?

No, it is not always active. You will know because, when you join a stretch of managed motorway, the gantry signs will tell you. If there’s a speed limit above the lane you’re in, then it’s active and you can use it. If there’s a red cross displaying, then you can’t use it. If there’s nothing displaying, then standard motorway rules apply.


Is it just a way of avoiding an expensive widening programme?

It is certainly much cheaper than widening. Think of all the road widening schemes lost through government cuts. But it has also reduced collisions, so it’s not just about cheap solutions.

Do I have to pay a toll to use a managed motorway?


No. There is no charge.

What happens in an emergency if the hard shoulder’s being used, then?

There are emergency refuge areas positioned at frequent intervals along a stretch of managed motorway.

What if I break down on a managed motorway?

If you can’t get to the refuge lane, stop and stay with your bike or in your car. Never attempt to cross the carriageway to reach the motorway phones.

On managed motorways there is a high level of CCTV coverage and Highways Agency traffic officers, so you should be noticed quickly, with help on the way.

Where will I find a ‘managed motorway?

Currently, there are stretches of the M1, M6 and M42 which have managed motorway (including hard shoulder use). Other stretches of managed motorway without hard shoulder use can be found on the M1, M20 and M25. Construction is underway for new stretches on the M1, M4, M5, M6 and M25. For exact locations, look at 

Tony Carter

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