Smart motorways offer ‘lowest level of safety’ due to Highways England cost saving

Smart motorways offer ‘lowest level of safety’ due to Highways England cost saving

03/31/2021

Smart motorways guide reveals which lanes to avoid

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The report claims Highways England’s Safe Systems tool which deals with eliminating the most deadly hazards on road was not considered when implementing smart motorways. The study also found there was a lack of meaningful consultation with local highway authorities for the implementation of smart motorways.

This means more care was given to the consultation of new bus stops than the new potentially lethal road networks.

Sarah Simpson, author of the report from Royal Haskoning found people were more likely to be involved in live lane incidents on smart motorways than other routes.

She said this would lead to more people dying or being seriously injured in collisions.

In the report, she claimed the decision to continue using the roads despite the controversies was “not justified”.

The report was commissioned by legal experts at Irwin Mitchell representing Claire Mercer, whose husband Jason was killed on a stretch of all-lane running motorway on the M1.

Helen Smith, public and human rights lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Claire said it was concerning how a cost-driven approach was “compromising public safety”.

She said: “We continue to investigate and uncover concerning evidence around the nation’s smart motorway network and its safety.

“This report, which has taken more than a year of through research, comprehensively pulls this evidence together.

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Leaving no stone unturned, the report lays bare more shocking details about how a cost-driven, value engineering approach is compromising the public’s safety.”

She added: “All of this just adds to the growing groundswell of opinion that more needs to be done to improve safety on smart motorways – which operate on some of the country’s major routes.

“We call on the Department for Transport, Grant Shapps, and Highways England to acknowledge that the development and roll-out of ALRs was flawed.

“They must act in accordance with their legal duties and take action to improve safety, or face formal legal action.

“Claire, and other families whose lives have been tragically impacted by crashes on smart motorways, are determined to bring about change for the better.”

The report found even with major upgrades the roads would even have fewer safety measures in place than other countries which have adopted Smart Safety systems such as Australia.

The DfT has recently confirmed proposed changes to the roads include increasing the use of emergency laybys and installing more technology to identify stranded vehicles.

Ms Mercer said: “More people in positions of authority are starting to voice concerns about these roads.

“Now, this report vindicates what I and other campaigners have been saying for some time.

“There were so many mixed emotions reading the report. There was upset and anger over what happened to Jason and others, but it also confirmed what I knew – smart motorways are death traps.

“It’s about time the Government and Highways England really took notice of all the evidence and public opinion.

“How many more people have to suffer the heartbreak of losing a loved one or suffer life-changing injuries before action is taken?”

Highways England said the collision risks for road users declined after all-lane running schemes were introduced. 

A spokesperson said: “Every road death is a tragic loss of life and we are determined to reduce the number of fatal incidents, and injuries, on our roads.

 “The Government’s evidence stocktake of the safety of smart motorways analysed a wealth of data and found that in most ways they are as safe as, or safer than, conventional motorways. We are committed to delivering the stocktake actions to further raise the bar on smart motorway safety.

“We are reviewing the Royal HaskoningDHV report.”

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