Government publishes smart motorways ‘stocktake’

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Published on 12 March 2020 by Mike Waters

The Department for Transport (DfT) has published a ‘stocktake’ of evidence it has gathered on smart motorways after an investigation by the BBC’s Panorama prompted an urgent review.

As the BMF reported, the programme found that the 200-mile smart motorway network has been plagued by near-misses and unreliable equipment. A Freedom of Information (FoI) request by the programme revealed that there were 1,485 near-miss incidents in the last five years on the M25 alone. Furthermore, there have also been 38 deaths across the smart motorway network as a whole.

Today, Transport Minister Grant Shapps MP published a statement outlining the results of that review. While noting that “Smart motorways have helped us cope with a 23 percent rise in traffic since 2000”, Mr Shapps also conceded that “their growth, however, has not always been well explained, there is not uniformity and concerns exist over safety.”

As a result, Mr Shapps also announced the launched of “an extended package of measures – an action plan – to raise the bar on smart motorway safety.”

The measures include the abolition of “dynamic hard shoulder” smart motorways, cutting Highways England Traffic Patrol target response times from 17 minutes to 10 minutes, making emergency areas more visible and an update of the Highway Code, among other steps.

“By these measures, we ensure safety is at the heart of our smart motorway programme and assure public confidence in the motorway network. We will continue to monitor the data and work with campaigners to ensure that improvements are delivered,” Mr Shapps concluded.

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