Smart motorways plan aims to boost

Smart motorways plan aims to boost
Smart motorways plan aims to boost
The government says it wants to “raise the bar” on smart motorway safety, following criticism of the scheme.

Under the plan, opening motorway hard shoulders for traffic in busy periods will be scrapped.

On those smart motorways where the hard shoulder has been removed entirely, there will be an increase in places for vehicles to stop in an emergency.

Between 2015 and 2018, 11 people a year on average have died on smart motorways in England.

Announcing the plan to improve smart motorway safety, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he had been “greatly concerned by a number of deaths on smart motorways, and moved by the accounts of families who’ve lost loved ones in these tragic incidents”.

Image copyright Meera Naran Image caption Eight-year-old Dev Naran (left) was killed on a smart motorway when he was on his way home from visiting his critical ill brother (right).

Smart motorways were introduced with the aim of increasing capacity and easing congestion by using the hard shoulder as an extra lane.

But they have been criticised by the government minister who originally approved the roll-out in 2010.

Speaking to Panorama in January, Sir Mike Penning, who is no longer a minister, said he had been misled about the risks of taking away the hard shoulder.

The Conservative MP said he had agreed to the expansion in 2010 after a successful pilot on the M42 near Birmingham.

The pilot worked well because there were safe stopping points for motorists, called emergency safety refuges, on average every 600 metres.

But when the scheme was expanded across the country, the safety refuges were placed further apart – on some sections, they are 2.5 miles apart.

“They are endangering people’s lives,” said Sir Mike. “There are people that are being killed and seriously injured on these roads, and it should never have happened.”

Responding to his comments, Highways England said the plans to expand smart motorways were approved by ministers and that it was working to gather the facts about safety.

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