With the recent coverage of the Sheffield coroner investigation into a fatal accident on the M1 in 2019, where the conclusion was that so called smart motorways “present an ongoing risk of future deaths”, we understand that Grant Shapps is to have a crisis talks with Highways England chiefs. The Daily Mail has referred to concerns from a lawyer at the DfT in minutes from a meeting in 2011 https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9165453/Smart-motorway-showdown-Transport-Secretary-Grant-Shapps-looms-Highways-England.html

It is worth recalling that the ABD referred to concerns as far back as 2003, and it is worthwhile referring to a press release made all those years ago, when plans were first contemplated.

ABD Condemns Dangerous Government Hard Shoulder Proposal

The latest plans from Transport Secretary Alistair Darling to allow drivers to use the hard shoulder to avoid congestion show a breathtaking lack of understanding. It seems that Mr Darling has not realised that the hard shoulder is vital for use by the emergency services to quickly gain access to an accident site and for drivers to have a safe refuge in an emergency.

Police and other emergency vehicles are able to use motorway hard shoulders to get to the scene of an accident quickly.

It is ironic that the need to consider such schemes only arises due to the government’s ineptitude at tackling motorway congestion. Time and again, the ABD have called upon the government not just to widen many motorways, but also to carry out proper education campaigns advising drivers on correct lane discipline and correct usage of acceleration and deceleration lanes to adjust speed rather than doing so on the main carriageway.  Such measures together with proper enforcement aimed at those who misuse lanes would go a long way towards solving much motorway congestion but the government appear deaf to all such suggestions.

ABD Chairman Brian Gregory said:

“This problem is one of the governments’ own making. They have had deliberate policies of underinvestment in infrastructure and have totally failed to understand the importance of road user education in both safety and congestion reduction. Instead of listening to road safety experts they have preferred the views of ‘advisers’ with an anti-car agenda.”

Mr Gregory added:

“This is typical of a government that has run out of ideas, but is desperate to be seen ‘doing something’. To remove a vital emergency lane instead of installing extra lanes is a dangerous bodge and can only lead to confusion and an increase in danger. Motorists have paid many times over for a proper road system, the government should put motorists’ taxes back where they belong, investing in necessary road improvements including extra lanes where necessary.”

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