Fresh call to scrap smart motorways after shock figures reveal number of M1 breakdowns

MP SARAH Champion has renewed her call to the government to scrap “death trap” smart motorways after learning dozens of vehicles a month are left stranded in “live lanes”.



Ms Champion has repeatedly raised concerns about the all-lane-running set-up between junctions 32 and 35a of the M1 in South Yorkshire.

And she has now obtained figures from the Department for Transport showing that there had been an average of 68 incidents per month in which a vehicle was stopped in a live lane since the smart motorway began operation in March 2017.

In a single month, March 2018, there were 102 breakdown incidents recorded on the ten-mile stretch of road.

Campaigner Claire Mercer, of Broom, has also called for the smart motorway set-up to be scrapped.

Claire’s husband Jason was killed in an accident after he stopped in a live lane after a minor shunt in 2019.

His was one of three deaths on the stretch of motorway in South Yorkshire since 2018.

By contrast, in the three years prior to its conversion, no serious or fatal incidents happened in which a vehicle was struck whilst in the hard shoulder of the same stretch of motorway.

Ms Champion said: “Since its conversion to a smart motorway, the ten-mile stretch of the M1 between junctions 32 and 35A has seen an average of 68 breakdowns per month in live lanes.

“Each of these incidents had the potential to end in tragedy.’

“By contrast, in the three years prior to its conversion, not a single serious incident occurred in which a vehicle was struck in the hard shoulder.

“When will the Government stop gambling with the lives of motorists and abandon these dangerous, ill-thought out death traps?”

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “Smart motorways have been under development since 2001 under the Blair-John Prescott Government.

“I think I’m the first secretary of state in 12 to carry out the stocktake and review, and I won’t rest until these are as safe as possible.”

Ms Champion added: “I was shocked and terrified by the sheer number of incidents in which vehicles stopped in live lanes on just this one small section of the smart motorway network.

“Each of these incidents could have resulted in more lives lost on these dangerous roads.

“By removing the hard shoulder, vehicles becoming stranded in moving traffic is made immeasurably more likely. The Government says it’s committed to rolling out new technology and safety improvements, but all that these achieve is to marginally reduce the huge risks they’ve created by removing the vital refuge that the hard shoulder provides.

“If the Government’s priority was really the safety of motorists, it could introduce safety features like stopped vehicle detection and overhead gantries without also removing the hard shoulder.

“Instead, they continue to press ahead with their so-called smart motorways, increasing capacity on the cheap by gambling with motorists’ lives.”