I understand. I am setting the context, because I think there is quite a lot of public misunderstanding about what smart motorways are. I am short of time and I am keen to get to the end of my speech if I can.
The conversion of the hard shoulder to a running lane is a key feature of capacity management, and we avoid having to build more motorways when we can increase the capacity of existing ones. I totally accept that there are real issues, which the hon. Lady raised, not least of which are refuge placement and ensuring that we have full CCTV coverage so we are able properly and quickly to monitor vehicles that are in trouble and ensure that they are dealt with properly. The scheme has been running since 2014. To the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford, there is a lot of data that we ought to be able to draw on, and we are drawing on it in this review.
It is worth reflecting that the hard shoulder on a traditional motorway has never been deemed a safe place to stop. One of the problems is that, traditionally, people have seen the rescue telephones and thought of it as a safe place to stop, find facilities and make a phone call. It is not and never has been. One of the things we have struck is a misunderstanding that it is a good place to pull over. It is not. Let me repeat that the hard lane has never been that and is never that. In contrast, there have been no collisions in refuges resulting in fatalities.
In the original pilot on the M42 in 2006, refuges were set very close together, at approximately 500 metres apart. Based on operational insights, further performance data and ongoing monitoring, Highways England moved that to 1,000 metres on all other dynamic hard shoulder running schemes, and then to 2,500 metres on all-lane running schemes. That is one of the things the Secretary of State is looking at.
Highways England undertook a review of operational all-lane running schemes and found no consistent correlation between the number of live-lane stops and the spacing of emergency areas, but I take the point my hon. Friend made about drilling down into that data, and I will ensure that that is done. We and Highways England know that motorists not only need to be safe but need to feel safe and need to know what to do when they are in the dangerous situation of a breakdown or a collision. We need to ensure that everyone has that information properly.
The specification for the maximum spacing of emergency areas on new schemes has been reduced from 1.5 miles, which is about 90 seconds at 60 mph and equivalent to the spacing of lay-bys on sections of A road, to 1 mile, which is about 60 seconds at 60 mph. However, again, we need to look at the data; on particular sections, given the geography of the road area, the spacing might need to be different. Highways England will also install a number of additional emergency refuge areas in locations with the greatest spacing. We need to look at whether there are particular blackspots where we need more refuges.
All emergency areas are fitted with orange surfacing to make them more visible, and better advance signing will give motorists more information about how far away the next one is. I want to go further and ask whether we could use digital technology, which many drivers use for satellite navigation, to ensure that every driver knows when they are in one of these areas, where the refuge is and what they should do. Technology can help us ensure that we avoid the sort of tragedies we have seen.
Identifying a broken-down vehicle is key, and I know that is something my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford has raised. If a driver is unable to reach a place of safety, the regional traffic control centre can and should use the overhead electronic signals to close lanes, display warning messages and slow down approaching traffic, as well as to create an access lane for the emergency services. To reduce response times in setting those signals, Highways England has installed a stopped vehicle detection system on two sections of the M25 and will shortly install one on part of the M3. Again, however, if that is the prerequisite, we need to put it everywhere and ensure that it works properly. Highways England is designing it into all-lane running smart motorway schemes that are currently scheduled, and it is exploring how to provide the same benefits on all existing all-lane running smart motorways. I say that not to suggest that it is an adequate response to the points that were made, but simply to highlight the work that is going on.