NI 74 - Smart motorways on hold: Government says they WON'T be rolled out and will be axed completely if they are proved to be dangerous

Post date: 06-Feb-2020 18:19:40

  • Smart motorways have been criticised because they do not have a hard shoulder

  • Drivers who break down on the motorways can be trapped in the speeding traffic

  • Shadow transport minister Karl Turner today called on Grant Shapps to 'act now'

  • Mr Turner said today that on a 16-mile stretch of M1, five have died in 10 months

The £6billion rollout of new 'smart' motorways has been halted and could be scrapped altogether, the Transport Secretary announced yesterday.

Grant Shapps revealed that four stretches of motorway currently being converted – which would see the hard shoulder used as a regular lane – 'will not be opening' until a safety review is complete.

The roads are built with emergency refuge areas, although these can be up to two-and-a-half miles apart.

Broken-down cars that do not reach these safe zones are left stranded in the path of fast-moving traffic.

MPs, police leaders and motoring groups have described the roads as 'death traps'. Figures released this week revealed that 38 people have died on smart motorways in the past five years, prompting the head of the Police Federation to describe them as 'inherently dangerous'.

Announcing the Government's 'stocktake' of the smart motorway scheme, Mr Shapps said it cannot continue unless Highways England proves they are 'as safe, if not safer' than conventional motorways.

Smart motorways that were due to open by the spring include stretches of the M6, M20, M23 and M62.

While Mr Shapps admitted these could be abandoned entirely after the safety review, he could not confirm whether those already in operation would be converted back to conventional motorways with a hard shoulder.

MPs say Highways England has failed to follow through on a 2016 promise to install technology across the entire network that detects when a vehicle breaks down.

They also say there are not enough refuge areas, insisting they should be no more than half-a-mile apart.

At present it can take 17 minutes for CCTV operators to spot stricken vehicles and a further 17 until the driver and any passengers are rescued from live motorway lanes.

Speaking in the Commons yesterday, Tory MP Tracey Crouch criticised the fact a smart stretch of the M20 in Kent, due to open in March, has refuges 1.2 miles apart – and no radar system.

In response, Mr Shapps said: 'The stretch of the M20 and all other stretches that are currently being worked on will not be opened until we have the outcome of the stocktake.'

He added: 'Last year, sadly, 1,700-plus people died on all of our roads. Motorways are the safest of those roads and the question is, are smart motorways less safe than the rest of the motorway network?

'For me, the answer is that we must make them at least as safe, if not safer, otherwise they can't continue.'

The review, which will be published in coming weeks, was welcomed by the Campaign For Safer Roadside Rescue And Recovery, which said: 'It would be complete madness for the Government to continue to open new stretches of 'smart motorways' while there are serious and mounting questions to be answered about their safety.

'We urge the Government to maintain the ban on opening any new stretches until measures have been agreed, implemented and proven to dramatically improve safety.'

Source: Mail

News Items < Back - Forward >