Why have the smart motorway rollouts been paused?

FOLLOWING pressure from campaign groups, the UK Government confirmed that they would be shelving new smart motorway plans.

The decision, which was taken by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, will apply to “all lane running” roads. Here’s the latest.  

Why have the smart motorway rollouts been paused?

On January 12, 2022, it was announced that the rollout of smart motorways had been halted amid growing safety concerns raised by MPs.

Ministers said that the schemes introduced would not be reintroduced until five years of safety data had been collected.

It meant that new projects planned for the M3, M40, M62 and M25 will be put on hold.

But others, which are already under way, will continue until they are complete.

The roads, which use the hard shoulder as an extra lane and also have temporary speed limits, have been under construction since 2014.

But tragically, according to Government inquiry figures, at least 24 broken-down drivers or passengers have died on them since 2015.

It included four people who were killed on the same stretch of the M1 in just ten months.

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What has The Department for Transport said?

Mr Shapps had accepted the report findings by the Transport Select Committee, as the Government pledged to "revisit the case" for installing controlled smart motorways instead.

He said: "While our initial data shows that smart motorways are among the safest roads in the UK, it's crucial that we go further to ensure people feel safer using them.

"Pausing schemes yet to start construction and making multimillion-pound improvements to existing schemes will give drivers confidence and provide the data we need to inform our next steps."

What are the dangers of a smart motorway?

Tragically, an freedom of information request in 2020 found that 38 people had died on smart motorways between 2015 and 2019.

Of those, 18 deaths had been blamed on confusion over how the roads operate.

The report showed the number of "near misses" had increased on one section of motorway by a huge 2,000%.

Smart motorways have also been criticised for their slower speeds and lax health and safety rules.

Emergency refuge areas should be available around very half mile – but most Brits aren't sure how to wait safely at the roadside.

The revelation came after it was revealed that AA breakdown crews had been instructed not to help stranded drivers because they were so dangerous.

Instead, staff must head to a safe location and wait for the driver's car to be moved there by Highways England.

Edmund King, AA president says; "Being stuck in a live lane is in incredibly dangerous. The official advice is keep your seat belt and hazard lights on and dial 999.

"It is not safe for breakdown organisations to recover vehicles unless the lane is closed and has a physical presence sat behind the casualty vehicle.

"This is either the Police with blue flashing lights or Highways England Traffic Officers with red flashing lights.

"This highlights the severity of breaking down in a live lane and further emphasises our calls for double the number of Emergency Refuge Areas.

"Providing drivers with more places of relative safety would reduce the risk of vehicles being stuck in a lane of fast moving traffic."

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