Government agrees to review smart motorway scheme after Jason Mercer's M1 death

Claire and Jason MercerClaire and Jason Mercer
Claire and Jason Mercer
THE Government has announced it will review the controversial ‘smart motorway’ scheme after lobbying from a Rotherham widow whose husband was killed on the M1 section.

Jason Mercer (44), of Broom, died alongside another motorist after they were involved in a collision on the All Lane Running Section near Meadowhall in June.

His widow Claire has been campaigning alongside Rotherham MP Sarah Champion for the road set-up to be scrapped, saying the move to do away with the hard shoulder was dangerous and had been “sneaked in through the back door”.

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Today, the Government committed to reviewing All Lanes Running Smart Motorways, which Ms Champion said was a “significant step” in the campaign to secure justice for Jason.

During transport questions in the House of Commons, Ms Champion asked if Transport Minister George Freeman would meet with her and Mrs Mercer to discuss the safety implications of the scheme and to stop the roll-out.

After agreeing to the meeting. Mr Freeman added: “I'm delighted to announce the Secretary of State will shortly be announcing a very short review in order that we can make sure that we deal with that problem quickly.”

Reacting to the news, Ms Champon said she was “delighted” the Government had committed to a review. 

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She added: “The so called ‘smart motorway’ is nothing of the sort. By removing the hard shoulder, a vital safety refuge is lost. 

“The Government was warned about the dangers of these schemes by the Transport Select Committee in 2016, three years before Jason’s death. But they chose to press on with increasing capacity on the cheap, at the expense of the safety of motorists.

“Jason’s death need never have happened. No-one else should have to suffer as Claire has. I hope that the Government will now see sense, prioritise motorists’ safety and stop these dangerous projects.”

Four people have now died on the same 16-mile stretch of the M1 in ten months after becoming stranded then hit by oncoming traffic on the inside lane of the motorway.

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Mrs Mercer said the review was “good news” and pressure had been building on the Government from different angles over the scheme.

“This is a good start, but there is still a long way to go,” said Mrs Mercer, who is suing Government-run Highways England over Jason’s death and calling for a judicial review into smart motorways.

The 43-year-old widow said her £18,000 crowdfunding campaign for the High Court judicial review was important because the Government could still decide to continue the roll-out.