Smart motorway review announced

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Published on 28 January 2020 by Mike Waters

The Transport Secretary has announced an urgent review of the UK’s smart motorway network as a BBC investigation finds serious safety issues.

Smart motorways, which were introduced in 2006 to relieve congestion by allowing road users to use the hard shoulder, are supposed to have refuges and radar detection equipment to allow those who do break down to take shelter in a safe area until recovery vehicles can arrive.

However, the BBC’s Panorama 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.

Speaking at the most recent National Road Safety Conference last year, the AA’s President Edmund King OBE sharply criticised the concept, noting that: “38% of breakdowns on smart motorways are in live lanes. Highways England’s own research shows on average it takes 17 minutes to spot a vehicle in a live lane. They also answered a FoI request which said after those 17 minutes, it takes 17 minutes to get a vehicle there to move it – that’s more than half an hour, in a live lane, praying that people will abide by a ‘Red X’, praying that a HGV won’t come up.”

Speaking to the BBC, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps MP said: “We absolutely have to have these as safe or safer as regular motorways or we shouldn’t have them at all.”

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Picture credit: Copyright Bill BoadenCreative Commons Licence.