Mapped: The most hated roads in Britain

How do smart motorways work?

By most accounts, driving in the UK is becoming more nightmarish by the year. Potholes pepper country lanes and fine-dispensing low-emission zones await on arrival in cities.

In spite of this, 73 percent of road users claimed to be satisfied with their last motorway or major A road journey in a recent poll – up from 69 percent last year.

The Strategic Roads User Survey (SRUS) by Transport Focus asks some 7,000 motorists how they feel about car journeys every year on behalf of the Government.

The most important criterion for satisfaction, it finds time and again, is journey time. Safety and surface quality matter, but not quite as much. Poor roadworks management is a persistent nuisance. can now reveal the roads failing to meet expectations on all counts.

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Regionally, people are most satisfied with their tarmac in the South West – at 80 percent overall. The A303 trunk road from Basingstoke in Hampshire to Honiton in Devon, leaving 85 percent of travellers happy, is the country’s favourite.

Other regions fare far worse, with scores between 70 and 73 percent. The most hated road in the UK, however, dips far below even this. 

The unfortunate accolade goes to the A27. Running between Portsmouth and Pevensey, it is the only east-west trunk road south of the M25 and a “key route linking the coastal bubs of Chichester, Worthing, Brighton and Hove, Eastbourne and Hastings”, according to National Highways.

Just 59 percent of its users are satisfied with it overall – 62 percent pleased with journey time, 59 percent with surface quality and just 75 percent with safety. 

The report quotes one driver as saying: “The trip was fine what is such a shame is the amount of rubbish on the sides of the roads. I have travelled on this road for nearly 30 years and the amount of rubbish in the last few years has got much worse. They used to pick up rubbish – what has happened?”

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This was followed by the A12 between London and Lowestoft with a 61 percent overall satisfaction score, then the M6 motorway (66 percent).

For the second year in a row, the longest motorway in England – running 230 miles from the Midlands to Gretna Green on the Scottish Border – has been dubbed the nation’s least favourite, a full 16 points lower than the next-most despised M5.

One surveyed driver commented: “Terrible tarmac conditions in places, matrix signs not up to date, unwarranted smart motorway speed limits.”

Over the past 15 years around a third of the road has been converted into a “smart motorway”, where the hard shoulder becomes an extra lane of traffic at peak congestion times. 

The SRUS found that journeys with a “smart” section had satisfaction of 69 percent, relative to 76 percent for trips without. In particular, they scored lower on safety – by 77 to 84 percent. Drivers on such motorways are instructed to stay in lane in their car in the event of a breakdown, with the lane then being closed to avoid an accident.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus called on officials to do more to improve safety. He said: “As the so-called backbone of Britain, the M6 is a vital route which National Highways must continue to focus on delivering safe, smooth journeys. We’ll continue to keep pushing National Highways to improve these issues.”

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