Smart motorways’ construction held back until safety ensured

LONDON (Parliament Politics magazine): Following a government investigation, the introduction of “all-lane-running” smart motorways has been halted due to concerns for safety. The “all-lane-running” highways were adopted in 2014, however they have been criticised by campaigners.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced that it will halt the extension of smart motorways, where the hard shoulder is always a real – time traffic lane, until five years of data on driver safety has been collected.

Added emergency refuge places and Stopped Vehicle Detection equipment will be installed where practicable as part of a £390 million refurbishment initiative.

The decision was made in response to a proposal by the Commons Transport Select Committee, which stated that there was insufficient economic and safety data to warrant the project’s continuation.

Smart motorways had been “screamed” at by campaigners.

Jason Mercer passed away in a car accident on his way to work in 2019. On  the M1 stretch near Sheffield that had been transformed to a smart motorway, he collided with a vehicle.

A lorry struck both automobiles when they came to a halt. Claire Mercer claims if there existed a hard shoulder, her husband would still have been here.

Smart motorways- what are they and why have they been put on hold?

“At first, I assumed it was just an unfortunate accident,” she told Sky News. But the more she knew, the more she realised it should have happened in the first place and there was no need for it to happen.

She added that the campaigners had been yelling about smart roads for years on end, and that only added to the suffering.

Ms. Mercer formed Smart Motorways Kill and she has been advocating for the elimination of all highways.

“None of this is enough,” she argues, and she wants to see firm shoulders restored in every situation.

The transport committee called the government’s decision in March 2020 to make all future smart motorways all-lane-running versions “premature” in a report.

“We think it is appropriate that the government takes stock, looks at the facts, looks at the data, and collects all the information before deciding if it is right to proceed,” RAC’s Head of Roads Policy Nicholas Lyes, told Sky News. The problem, in the end, was the permanent elimination of the hard shoulder and insufficient refuge spaces.

“If a driver pulls over in a live lane, they may be at the mercy of drivers behind them who aren’t paying attention to the information on the gantry signs.”