Life on the hard shoulder could well be

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To those of us who belong to that happy band of brothers and sisters, The Friends Of The M27, news that ‘our’ motorway is to gain an extra lane will produce three joyful toots on the horn.

Until, that is, you realise that ‘widening’ means scrapping the hard shoulder during peak hours.

In theory the idea has merits and those of you caught in last night’s long westbound tailbacks following an accident on the Fareham slip might have got home earlier had it been in place.

Indeed it would bring the M27 in line with a clutch of England’s other busiest motorways.

The M42 around Birmingham has had sections of so-called ‘smart’ motorway since 2006. And generally it works well.

But despite the fact that the hard shoulder is often reported to be the most dangerous place on the motorway, it does give a certain peace of mind, a relatively safe haven in which to pull over in an emergency.

But what might happen if a lorry caught fire, a crash happened or if a vehicle simply broke down on a stretch of the M27 subject to this smart move?

Where would you go if you ran out of petrol or got a puncture?

If you got a puncture you would have no option but to sit there sweating, on the inside lane of a live motorway, wondering if you should take your chances with the wheel brace or not. Or you go off-roading instead.

Highways England says its CCTV cameras will immediately alert a control centre to emergencies on the hard shoulder, red crosses will appear on overhead gantries closing the lane and traffic will revert to the normal three lanes.

But that relies on drivers immediately obeying such instructions and, crucially, believing what they are being told. How many times are we warned of lane closures only to find there was no obvious reason for them?

Highways England’s plan to turn the M27 into a rush-hour-smart motorway will be welcomed by anyone who has to endure its daily jams.

But why not trial it first to see if it would really work?