A stretch of the M25 in Surrey and another in Hertfordshire are set to become sections of England's first 'smart' motorway.

The Highways Agency has announced final preparations are taking place for the M25 to become the country's first so-called ‘smart’ motorway, improving journeys and boosting the economy.

The change has been heralded as “the start of a new age on England’s motorways.”

The two sections of the motorway opening this month and next, will, for the first time on a motorway scheme in England, have the hard shoulder converted for use as a permanent traffic lane for drivers, and have enhanced technology to manage traffic flow to improve the reliability of journey times.

The improvements, spanning some 20 miles of the M25, are part of a new generation of technology-driven improvements on the strategic road network known as ‘smart motorways.’ The advance on the M25, which will be repeated on other motorways, is the permanent conversion of the hard shoulder for traffic, providing 24/7 extra capacity. The two sections being converted are between junctions 5 and 6/7 on the Surrey/Kent border, and between junctions 23 and 25 in Hertfordshire.

John Martin, Highways Agency senior project manager, said the introduction of smart motorways will improve journey time reliability for drivers.

Mr Martin said: “Around £1.7 billion is being invested into roads in the South-east by 2021, with 145 new lane miles of capacity added. “Most of the work to improve journeys on these stretches in Hertfordshire and Kent/Surrey is complete and we are now testing the new technology.” He said: “We are delighted to be able to open the first part of the northern section ahead of the planned full completion in December 2014. “The southern section is completing significantly earlier than planned due to rescheduling of the programme.”

He added: “Soon the smart motorway will be complete and we are now asking drivers to get smart and find out more about how to use it, the types of signs and signals they will see, and what to do in the event of a breakdown.

“This really is the start of a new age on England’s motorways.”

On each M25 section, the work to remove the traffic management will be carried out over a number of nights. The temporary 50mph speed limit will remain in place until the section opens.

On the Surrey/Kent border section, the traffic management is due to be removed at the end of this month, with the section fully open in May. Further details will be announced nearer the time. On this stretch, work has completed ahead of the planned December 2014 date due to a reprogramming of the work schedule and good weather over the crucial construction period.

The full scheme is due for completion later this year. A public information campaign to help drivers find out more about smart motorways, has been launched, including details online, on Youtube, in retail outlets such as motorway service areas, radio advertising, and leaflets.

For more information visit the website at: http://www.highways.gov.uk/publications/smart-motorways-campaign-material/ The Highways Agency is an executive agency of the Department for Transport, managing, maintaining and improving the country's motorways and other strategic roads on behalf of the Secretary of State.