An investigation has found that a section of the M27 was without signs, signals, or cameras for more than a day in February this year.

Revealed as part of a BBC Panorama investigation into smart motorways – that aired on Monday, April 22 – the programme explored what happens when faulty equipment and power cuts can lead to the technology supposed to keep motorists safe on the motorway failing.

Smart motorways employ active traffic management techniques aimed to ease traffic congestion on the motorway, often allowing traffic to move into the hard shoulder.

However, the system is not without its detractors, as it can constrict space for drivers to who are forced to come to a complete stop in the event of a break-down or accident – with the Panorama investigation finding you’re three times more likely to be killed or injured on a smart motorway without a hard shoulder.

It was found that for more than 24 hours in February 2024, there were no signals, signs, sensors, or cameras working between junctions five at Eastleigh and seven at Hedge End due to a power cut.

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Should a vehicle break down on a smart motorway, cameras are supposed to pickup the incident as soon as possible, with a red cross then being signalled on the gantry above the motorway, informing drivers that the lane is closed.

Speaking to Panorama reporter Richard Bilton, president of the AA, Edmund King, said: “If you haven’t got the technology, it’s a basic motorway – but it’s not even a basic motorway because you haven’t got the hard shoulder.

“You’re basically playing Russian Roulette with people’s lives.

“I think the time is right for smart motorways to be abolished.”

Accidents on smart motorways have killed 79 people in England, according to the Panorama investigation – with 174 power outages occurring in the last six months alone.

National Highways operational control director, Andrew Page-Dove told the Echo: “Safety is our highest priority, and our motorways are statistically some of the safest in the world, but there is still work to do as every death is a tragedy and every serious injury a life changed.

“We need to help everyone feel confident when using smart motorways.

“They were introduced to provide extra capacity on some of our busiest and most congested sections of motorway, and the latest data shows that, overall, in terms of serious or fatal casualties, smart motorways are our safest roads.”

He added: “We are taking action to close the gap between how drivers feel and what the safety statistics show by increasing the number of emergency areas, delivering education campaigns, and improving the resilience of our operational technology systems.”