Highways Agency: Incompetence or Fraud?


I was driving home from a kart race last week.

It was around 11pm and as I was about to turn off the motorway the overhead gantry read;

“Stranded vehicle ahead”.

I know this stretch of road on the M20 and so knew that there are “smart motorway” cameras about a mile or so down the road from where I was turning off.

I almost carried on my planned route but thought to myself “I bet there’s no stranded vehicle and this is just another excuse to turn the cameras on”.

So my curiosity led me back on to the motorway to see with my own eyes and… you guessed it:

70mph turned to 50mph, to 40mph and then back to 70mph.

And of course, no stationary vehicle.

There can surely only be two possible explanations for this;

1) That there was a stranded vehicle earlier and the signs and variable speed limit cameras hadn’t been turned off (incompetence) or;

2) That there was never a stranded vehicle in the first place and it was just an excuse to switch on the cameras (fraud).

How is it possible that in one of the Worlds leading democracies the Highways Agency is being allowed to commit this fraud (or behave so incompetently) time and time — and time — again all over the UK?

Just last week I was travelling back from Aylesbury on the M1 and came across the variable limit just before the M25.

Each time I braked heavily to avoid the suddenly stopping traffic I looked in the rear view mirror and winced, hoping no one was going to plough in to the back of my car

The abuse of these variable limits by the Highways Agency is sheer insanity and we need to find a way to get our voices heard…

Please post your suggestions below!


Join the Conversation


  1. Remove all speed cameras from smart motorways and allow drivers to use their common sense not to slam on their brakes every time the speed drops because they don’t want a ticket.

  2. The State is the biggest Fund Raiser of all! Just think of how they “sting” us from car parking, speed fines, hospital car park charges,Congestion charge, ‘bus lane charge etc. without the AGW scam costing taxpayers and consumers millions.

  3. the explanation is simple, they need a person on the ground to check before they can cancel the sign!
    If you have to brake heavily on a Motorway then who is incompetent?

  4. Yes it’s a scandalous situation and has to be fought Legally. Since you have a so called superb legal team. Why don’t you look into it at a legal standpoint. See if it’s actually Legal or not. Should this agency post online immediately a situation of a stranded vehicle and post true photos to substantiate the claim.
    As stated this situation needs fighting but legally.

  5. I absolutely agree, I travel the M11 to the M25 regularly and the amount of warnings of debris, obstruction, stranded vehicle warnings which never materialised is phenomenal. Yes either fraud or incompetence!!

  6. I have been on the M25 when for no reason the Smart Motorway sign to the M3 reduced to 20 mph! There was no queue, and when I slowed to 20 mph, I very nearly got hit by a lorry doing in excess of 50 mph! I phoned the Highways Agency and they told me the signs hadn’t been set to 20 mph!

  7. This is an attempt to make the agency appear to be “doing their job”. One day there will be a multiple pile up due to their incompetence (or cheating). They are not even traffic police.

  8. Maybe a convoy of cars at crawler speed on a given time and day to converge on downing street from all routes into central London. Bring it to a standstill and maybe someone will listen. It’s time the motoring cash cow stopped.

  9. Spot on. Happens all the time. “reports of pedestrians in road” is another good one, seen it loads of times, never a pedestrian in sight.

  10. I would suggest that if Adam has to “slam his brakes on hard” often he need to address his own driving skills & also Adam, do you ever complain direct to the Highways Agency ?

  11. Just live with it. Obey the rules, never pay a fine…When every driver does this, these cameras will not make a penny and will be taken away….

  12. They should be obliged to publish all data in respect of the occassions that they alter the speed restrictions. Also evidence of the reasons.

  13. A petition with 100,000 signatures will get it debated in parliament and this is such an emotive subject I’m sure it can achieve this total, perhaps Adam should get this started and get it on facebook, maybe a Youtube clip about it.

  14. they cause more accidents and stress than anything else if in right hands think they be good but not with the stealing fraud people we have on there

  15. i was driving down the M1 last week and was restricted to 60 for about 20 molies on a ‘smart’ part of the motorway. No reasons given just gantry at 60.

    There were no roadworks, hold ups, no traffic, no valid reasons for it at all.

    There should be some sort of complaints procedure for this arrogance

  16. Raise a petition on the .GOV site.
    As a Truck Driver travelling many miles each night, I see many instances of Pedestrians, Broken Down Cars, or even pictograms of overturned cars ahead.
    A particular hate of mine is when they warn that a road is closed between two junctions and i have to divert only to find the closure was in the opposite direction.

  17. For all the reports we make when are we going to get those responsible to be named and published with their explanation or excuse exposed on the media?

  18. Adam,

    I TOTALLY agree … I drive 40K miles a year with work and am constantly confronted by these variable speed limits on smart motorways, the M42 seems to me to one of the worst … 60 then 50 then 40 back up to 50 with the traffic speeding up then backing up seemingly for no reason and as you say, this feels dangerous seemingly unaware of the potential penalties and anxiously up your bootlid desperate to get past !!

    Are the Highways Agency governed by any rules, is their performance monitored in any way as to there competence/effectiveness … I’d really like to know ??!!

  19. The UK government has powers not legal in EU.Excessive motorway speeds can be verified by the massive bulk data GCHQ hold on all of us with smart phones. They prefer not to use evidence in court in order to hide this. Search RIPA and find out for yourselves. POLICE LIES WRECK LIVES.

  20. Let’s face it, this has been common practice since they came into being. Do these people who control these signs drive a car? If so obviously not on motorways, otherwise they would appreciate the problems and situations they create & cause.

  21. Let’s face it,unfortunately the whole of the U.K’s governing system is looking to be a fraud at the moment.

  22. I too have seen this; too often, for it to be “a mistake” on M25 M20 M3 M4.

    Also Pedestrians on Motorway is becoming a favorite on M25.
    Last time that was for 3 junctions!!

  23. Every time a variable limit is on for no reason the driver confidence in there actually ever being a genuine hazard ahead diminishes. The old style flashing speed signs are universally ignored because they were on or left on when no hazard existed 90% of the time.

  24. This whole country is corrupt, we have corrupt police officers, corrupt judges, corrupt MPs, corrupt council staff, the country is on its knees.

    Not only are the Highway agencies committing fraud so are local councils issuing their own “Fake” Court Summonses. See youtube videos on Council Tax it will stun you the lengths corrupt councils are prepared to go breaking the law to extort more money out of us.

    We now need civil unrest, just like the Pole Tax Riots of 1990. It is going to happen as the people have had enough of being controlled by our corrupt Government and pathetic Police Farce.

    The best punishment we can give this corrupt Government is rip the Bastards a new ass hole and tax evade.

    Remember anything the government give you they have stolen it from another person.

    The Government are The Shit On Your Shoes!

    We are the Power NOT them!

  25. This extortion has gone far enough it’s little short of a police state & at best unnecessary.
    I concur with the civil right to raise the requisite consensus signatures – here’s mine with commensurate pejudice.

  26. The conflict of interest on traffic fines must be removed.

    Basic principle: the organisation judging or issuing a punishment must not be able to profit therefrom in any manner whatsoever.

    All fines must be put into a fund NOT ACCESSIBLE TO ANY ARM OF GOVERNMENT -neither directly nor indirectly. Same applies to NGOs [oxymoron!] exercising quasi governmental powers.

  27. Adam, I suggest you, and any other driver who may have been affected by such an incident, submit a Freedom of Information Request to the Highway Authority requesting full details of the alleged “breakdown” and the times when the signs were switched on and switched off. This may be one way of showing roads authorities that motorists are not prepared to tolerate incompetence or fraudulent activities.

  28. I can’t help thinking that the Highways Agency is not likely to admit to either incompetence or fraud, which I agree are the only real causes. Where we can go from here is anyone’s guess!

  29. My money is on total incompetence. I doubt the dickheads who operate these systems have the intellect to think though a fraudulent strategy!,

  30. Petition to the government to investigate this corrupt dept called the Highways Agency, yet further proof that the so called Smart Motorways are run by Dumb Arses

  31. My wife was done for speeding on the same section of the M20 near Maidstone because the cameras changed without any reason. The route was clear ahead and the cars around her were all doing roughly the same speed. the speeding notice indicated 71mph in a 60mph zone. Disgraceful behaviour from a Chief Constable that allows drug abuse to flourish but acts tough on motorists.

  32. Really sad & shame this is not a way to makes money high way department have to Apologise with public because high way playing games with public & making lot of money through big fines

  33. Whilst it’s tempting to suggest fraud, it’s just utter incompetence. The “smart” motorways aren’t smart. They’re manually controlled by people looking at cameras. At least they’re *supposed* to be. Just think: everyone has a smartphone. A deal with Google or Apple could have meant using the motion data that powers the traffic speeds on Google Maps or Apple Maps. Buy data as RSS feed, use it to control the signs. Simple. But no, the British government is too stupid.

  34. My experience is mainly M6 and invariably the signs displayed on the gantries are inaccurate. This has been the experience over more than 7 years. Often we see traffic officers ensconced in their Land Rover Discos, keeping warm and reading the newspaper near rogue signs. The worst are “congestion ahead”, raising panic and then absolutely clear 3 lanes.

  35. There’s an average speed camera near where I live. It starts at the top of a very steep hill and ends at the bottom. You have to brake all the way down if you want to keep under the 70mph speed limit.
    As I did not know the cameras had been activated I managed to rack up 3 speeding tickets before I knew about any of them.

    Now I’m looking at a ban as I received them all in one go months later.

    The system is not fair

  36. Put in a FOIA request to see the logs for all these changes, and any internal correspondence, and the verified reasons. Then take it to Parliament.

  37. This happens so frequently, I expect it to be the norm. I really don’t know what can be done about it, there are levels of incompetency in most walks of life but this has the ability to KILL! I would like to find out just how many accidents have been caused by the unnecessary sudden slowing down of traffic.

  38. This is just the sort of thing that causes people to ignore signs&when there is an actual problem it causes an accident. Petition needs to be raised so it ends up for debate in parliament

  39. Unfortunately you will have to live with it. Highways are untouchable, the government is bent as a nine bob note.
    I’m in Cornwall, no problems like that

  40. Good reason to use a dash-cam to record all of your journeys with proof of their incompetence/fraudulent activities for your own protection.

  41. Ask the I.A.M ( UK’s largest road safety charity organisation) to discuss this and maybe they can help lobby government ?

  42. I to am fed up but you can guess they will happen i was on the M62 2 weeks ago coming back from a day out when with no warning 40mph no warning at all cars were swerving all over the place but then what do you expect when numnuts is on the key board i record and save on my carcam incase you need to cover your arse ban these fucking cameras and just reduce the speed in those areas genuinly all the time no excuses then.

  43. I experience this all the time at night with hardly any traffic on the motorways. It needs a petition.

  44. This sort of thing happens far too often. And its wrong, quite possibly immoral. Govt seems to have forgotten that roads are for the users, the drivers. I think that it would be wonderful if you pushed this towards Parliament. Local MP, Dept of Transport?

  45. I experience this all the time at night when the motorways are almost empty of traffic. It needs a petition.

  46. I’ve read every comment, I agree with every single one, but, sorry, do you think the government is going to loose such a cash generating opportunity like this, I DONT think so, by all means get a petition going, but you will be p*ssing in the wind. I’m a lorry driver, I couldn’t start to say how many of these rip off signs that I see in my working week……….

  47. We have all seen it. Either Change.org or Government petitions supported by Social media campaigns. 100,000 signing means it’s going to be on the agenda for discussion in the Commons

  48. im a biker and we have (mag/motor cycle action group )something of a similar nature might not be a bad idea.

  49. I shall not repeat the frequently posted suggestion of a petition although it might be worth another talk shop….. However this misguidance of the motorist is repeated on every road. All too often signs are left out advising of workmen in the road, flood, traffic signals ahead, and the truth is the signs have just been left out days after the event. Is it any surprise that all too often the warnings are ignored?

    The authorities offer really outrageous excuses for incompetence or fraudulent behaviour such as they are “slowing the traffic due to high pollution levels” “slowing the traffic flow to speed up the congestion” that one really gets to me more especially when there are records showing drivers losing their license in “variable speed control areas”.

    More honesty would be a major improvement in all these areas.

  50. I got so incensed about several of these in sane occurrences along the M6 that I wrote to the Highways agency and got bland reply stating it wasn’t them it must have been a police incident????


  52. A quick scan of your fellow complainants does not reveal if any have been summonsed when the warnings have been used needlessly. I am told their misuse,if provable, is a defense against such temporary speed limits.

    I think a petition is a good idea. Be happy to contribute

  53. Its a shame all this regulation is putting more stress on drivers, which is causing road rage and on going mental problems. Surely someone can do something about this nonsense, we cant rely on the authorities. Who can we rely upon?

  54. I feel that it is time that a petition is put in place so that it can be brought to the attention of parliament. We only need 100,000 then it must be raised for discussion.

  55. The M42 gantries south of Birmingham appear to be scheduled on a timer irrespective of traffic density. I am an engineer and there are technologies that can monitor flow speed and vehicle numbers which could be used to drive an algorithm to set the speed needed to keep the traffic flowing. Where these systems are used as intended they do ease congestion. Lets keep them focussed on this.

  56. When the first fixed cameras were installed and still to this day there are many accounts of these being vandalised and ruined by angry motorists, and other road users… I am still very surprised this has never happened to the motor way cameras…. especially the new “stealth cameras” (yellow boxes at the side of the overhead gantry’s). I would never endorse this of course but it really does surprise me they have never been touched.Nottinghamshire M1, apparently the cameras are all now live and set to just over 70mph whether the variable limits are on or not. I find using the motorway far to stressful with these things now and avoid at any cost. So the A roads are now worse than ever for congestion. great move Highways agency / government initiatives…

  57. I agree to getting the AA and RAC involved on this one, they must encounter this on a daily basis. Perhaps a well drafted letter that we can all sign and send to our MP’s

  58. Let’s be honest the speed limits are clearly marked for whatever reason they’re on, if they say a stranded vehicle but there isn’t one the speed limit is still clearly marked.
    Having just had to do a speed awareness course myself I have only myself to blame.
    I agree with an earlier comment that if you’re having to brake hard then you’re travelling to fast or too close to vehicles in front let’s not try to cover our own failings by blaming someone else.

  59. Travelling S. on the Smart section of the M3, near Bagshot. There was a camera flash on the opposite carriageway. No speed restrictions lit up. On that day the camera’s were on constantly.

  60. As people obey the speed limit revenue drops if speed cameras are effective. If so other forms of income have to be considered. IF the accident rate has dropped why have insurance cost not?

  61. I agree with Duncan (and know what he means about M42!!). It also happens on M6 around Walsall, irrespective of the volume of traffic!
    M1 (near Northampton) always seemed to have ‘Animals on the carriageway’ apparently!!

  62. I believe the people controlling traffic speeds have some of the low speeds on timers as said by Duncan above. I was driving on the M25 on Christmas Day, 2017 on my way to Heathrow terminal 5 when I saw the following message; “Congestion Ahead”. Congestion on Christmas day? Quite absurd. The way was clear through all the way to and from Terminal 5. My inclination is towards massive incompetence on the part of the Highway Agency.

  63. I realise it was a while ago, but we were travelling down to Folkstone, on the M25, at about 3am. The overhead gantries had the speed limit down to 40mph virtually the whole length of the variable speed limit section. Why, there wasn’t any traffic on the road?

  64. incompetent is to kind to call the h/a.they are useless sadistic pricks that are so sad they have to fuck up other people’s work or social use of highways.other country’s do a much better job.its typical of british councils, government ,think tanks and most other officialdom to grab money from the people and do a shit job in return.and the filth are just as bad.robbery and violence don’t get looked at but call some one a poof or report a crime that happened 40 yr ago and they get a stiffy.revolution is required.we the people should blow up the houses of the rich officials and lynch them.like the French did.

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