Smart Transport

MPs urge Government to pause smart motorway roll-out over safety concerns

Smart motorway

The Transport Select Committee (TSC) has called on the Government to pause the roll-out of smart motorways for the next five years due to safety concerns.

A third report on the rollout and safety of smart motorways called for more data and evaluations to be made before any further schemes are introduced, with current plans expected to add an additional 300 miles of all-lane running motorway by 2025.

MPs called for the Department for Transport (DfT) to use the time to evaluate the safety of existing all-lane running schemes and to consider alternative options for enhancing capacity on the Strategic Road Network (SRN).

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps published an 18-point action plan in March 2020 to improve safety after a previous review of smart motorways.

The DfT put measures in place in April this year to accelerate safety improvements.

Smart motorways were introduced as a technology-driven approach to deal with congestion through increasing capacity on motorways and controlling the flow and speed of traffic. They can be divided into three different designs, of which the most common is all-lane running, introduced in 2014.

This is the type that causes the most concern for campaigners as broken down vehicles can end up stranded in live lanes.

The Committee's report coincides with campaigners at Parliament Square on November 2 who are demanding a ban on all-lane running motorways.

The campaign has been led by Claire Mercer, whose husband died in June 2019 on a part of the M1 smart motorway that does not have a hard shoulder. 

A summary of the TSC report says: “This is not the first TSC report scrutinising all-lane running motorways.

“In 2016, the then Transport Committee expressed deep scepticism about the design and implementation of all-lane running motorways.

“In response, the Department and Highways England promised safety improvements. However, the promised safety improvements were delivered neither efficiently nor effectively. 

“Although we welcome the Department’s belated acceleration of safety improvements to all-lane running motorways, it is regrettable that the Government should find itself in this position.

“Safety risks on all-lane running motorways, such as those raised by our predecessor Committee in 2016, should have been addressed before those motorways were rolled out.”

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