Yes, the government has finally listened to those people left bereaved, or with life-changing injuries, after being hit by a vehicle on a so-called Smart or All-Lanes Running Motorway. The abolition of the hard shoulder was one of the most reckless ideas ever put forward at a traffic management meeting. Why? Emergency vehicles are unable to access the scene of an accident, so people die waiting for paramedic support or transport to hospital. Children and less able passengers are unable to exit vehicles that are stranded safely, the refuge areas are too far apart, the traffic cameras have blind spots – the list goes on.
IE has called out everyone involved in this intrinsically unsafe road building scheme for years and to those who say the schemes are safe we ask one simple question; How many extra deaths per year are justified so you can travel slightly faster on our congested motorway network?
Here’s an edited version of the press statement.
The rollout of new smart motorway schemes will be paused until a full 5 years’ worth of safety data is available, as the Department for Transport (DfT) invests £900 million to improve safety on existing all lane running (ALR) motorways.
In line with the Transport Committee’s most recent recommendations, the rollout of new ALR smart motorways will be paused until a full 5 years’ worth of safety data becomes available for schemes introduced before 2020. After this point, the government will assess the data and make an informed decision on next steps.
Although available data shows smart motorways are comparatively the safest roads in the country in terms of fatality rates, while their rollout is paused, the government will go further by ensuring current smart motorways without a permanent hard shoulder are equipped with best-in-class technology and resources to make them as safe as possible.
This will include investing £390 million to install more than 150 additional emergency areas so drivers have more places to stop if they get into difficulty. This will represent around a 50% increase in places to stop by 2025, giving drivers added reassurance.
DfT has welcomed the Transport Committee’s report, which endorsed its focus on further upgrading the safety of existing ALR smart motorways rather than reinstating the hard shoulder. As concluded by the committee, evidence suggests hard shoulders do not always provide a safe place to stop, ( well create more frequent service and rest areas as in Germany, Netherlands etc then – Ed) and by reducing motorway capacity, they could put more drivers and passengers at risk of death or serious injury if they were to divert onto less safe local roads. (A ridiculous argument as people aren’t allowed to travel at 70mph on local roads – Ed)
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:
One of my first actions as Transport Secretary was to order a stocktake of smart motorways and since then, I have worked consistently to raise the bar on their safety. I am grateful to the Transport Committee and to all those who provided evidence for its work.
While our initial data shows that smart motorways are among the safest roads in the UK, it’s crucial that we go further to ensure people feel safer using them.
Pausing schemes yet to start construction and making multimillion-pound improvements to existing schemes will give drivers confidence and provide the data we need to inform our next steps. I want to thank safety campaigners, including those who have lost loved ones, for rightly striving for higher standards on our roads. I share their concerns.
The government’s response to the Transport Committee builds on the significant progress already made against DfT’s 18-point action plan to improve smart motorway safety, announced in March 2020, including adding emergency areas and upgrading cameras to detect red X offences.
The measures in the Stocktake and Transport Committee response represent over £900 million of improvements in total, including £390 million of new money for extra emergency areas, with the remainder of the funding delivering other measures, such as stopped vehicle detection and concrete central reservation barriers.
National Highways will also ramp up communications so drivers have better information about how to drive on smart motorways.
Also, in line with the committee’s recommendations, National Highways will pause the conversion of dynamic hard shoulder (DHS) motorways – where the hard shoulder is open at busy times – into all lane running motorways while it investigates alternative ways of operating them to make things simpler for drivers. National Highways will also install technology to detect stopped vehicles on these sections.