Areview into the safety of ‘smart’ motorways across the UK has been called forby transport secretary, Grant Shapps, calling into question the long-termfuture of the driving concept.
MrShapps explained that he knew “people were dying on smart motorways” and wantedto get recommendations on how best to proceed to ensure all motorways are “assafe as they possibly can be”.
Thereview coincides with a frank admission from Highways England, which statesthat an investigation into the potential effects of removing hard shouldersfrom motorways hadn’t been made prior to the introduction of smart motorways.
Arecent AA survey found that just a tenth of fleet and domestic motorists feltsafer on smart motorways than conventional motorways. Meanwhile almost three-quarters(71%) of respondents feel that all-lane running schemes were more dangerousthan motorways with a permanent hard shoulder.
JimO’Sullivan, head of Highways England, appears to have made a U-turn on hiscomments made in June stating that smart motorways were just as safe asconventional motorways. Mr O’Sullivan has admitted that more smart motorwaysare unlikely as “too many motorists don’t understand them”.
EdmundKing, president, AA, said: “We are delighted the Transport Secretary haslistened to us and agreed to review the safety of ‘smart’ motorways.
“Wehave been raising concerns for more than six years about the dangers of the 38%who breakdown in a live lane on smart motorways.
“Wehope the review will stop a further rollout unless more Emergency Refuge Areasare planned and retrofitted.
“Wetrust that the review will not get overtaken by misleading or partialstatistical analysis about what type of road is safer but will concentrate onavoidable deaths.
“Weknow there are real situations where lives would have been saved if drivers onsmart motorways had somewhere safe to stop. We owe it to all drivers to givethem a safe harbour to stop if their vehicle develops problems.”
MeanwhileNicholas Lyes, head of roads policy, RAC, believes the “latest stopped vehicledetection technology” should be “retrofitted” to all existing smart motorwaysections as soon as possible, whilst investing in “more SOS areas” so thatmotorists “are never more than a mile away from one”.