Money welcome but smart motorways should still go, says MP

Money welcome but smart motorways should still go, says MP

By Michael Upton | 30/04/2021

Money welcome but smart motorways should still go, says MP

 

MP SARAH Champion welcomed news of extra smart motorway safety measures but said she still felt the controversial road set-up should be scrapped.

The Rotherham MP spoke out after transport minister Grant Shapps said new stopped vehicle detection (SVD) technology should be added to every all-lane-running road in the country by autumn next year \a six months earlier than previously pledged.

But she said the changes would only reduce “to a small degree” the dangers of the road set-up, under which hard shoulders are removed.

Three people have died on the M1 in South Yorkshire since the all-lane-running system was introduced in 2017, and a coroner said earlier this year that the layout had contributed to two of these deaths, including that of Jason Mercer, of Broom.

In its annual report on smart motorways, roads operator Highways England maintained they were safer than conventional roads and were the scene of fewer deaths.

The roads agency called the set-up “the safest roads in the country” and said there were a third more deaths on traditional motorways.

Ms Champion said: “The installation of SVD across the smart motorway network is a welcome improvement.

“I am clear that this commitment has come about only as a result of pressure from MPs, campaigners, and, most importantly, from the families of those who have already lost loved ones.

“This change is welcome, but it doesn’t address the fundamental problem.

“While it can improve safety, in the end, all Highways England and the Government are doing is mitigating to a small degree a risk they themselves have created.

“Highways England continue to disingenuously offset the safety improvement that a managed environment delivers against the risk of removing the hard shoulder.

“But these are not mutually exclusive \a a managed environment can be delivered while keeping the hard shoulder.”

Ms Champion noted the Highways England report committed to complete a feasibility review into “retrofitting” extra emergency refuges on existing smart motorways where they are currently spaced more than one mile apart by 2022.

She said this timetable was far too slow, adding: “If safety really was the number one priority, then delivering basic safety measures like properly spaced refuges would have been built into the design from the word go.

“Instead, we must wait two years from the publication of the initial report simply to learn the outcome of a review.

“I am gravely concerned that more lives will be lost whilst we wait. The government should immediately commit to restore the hard shoulder pending work to install additional refuges.”

Advanced drivers group IAM RoadSmart welcomed the introduction of stopped vehicle technology (SVD) and more frequent refuges but also pointed out the need for better education and information for smart motorway users.

A recent IAM poll found 80 per cent of members felt less safe on a smart motorway.

Chief executive Tony Greenidge said: “A new education course and swift penalties for those drivers who put others at risk is also being proposed to be effective this must be backed up by more traffic police to ensure the new powers are used.”

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