MPs call for end to smart motorway rollout

12.37 | 17 December 2018 | | 9 comments

Image: Highways England

The rollout of smart motorways – where the hard shoulder is converted into a fourth lane – should be stopped, a group of MPs says.

According to BBC News, an all-party parliamentary group of MPs is backing campaigners who say having no hard shoulder puts motorists and recovery workers at risk.

First introduced in 2014, smart motorways use variable speed limits to manage traffic and tackle stop-start congestion.

The hard shoulder is turned into an ‘active lane’, with gantry signs displaying a red X indicating if a lane is closed – usually as a result of a vehicle breakdown or in the event of a collision.

There are three main types of smart motorways in the UK:

  • Controlled
  • Dynamic hard shoulder – where the hard shoulder is used as a lane in busy traffic
  • All Lane Running (ALR) – where the hard shoulder is permanently a fourth lane

The ALR schemes are the most common – and are causing the greatest concern, according to BBC News.

England has more than 100 miles (161km) ALR smart motorways, with a further 225 miles in the pipeline.

BBC News references figures which show that last year, on these stretches, there were 16 crashes across all lanes which caused injury involving stationary vehicles, such as broken-down cars.

Over the same period, there were 29 similar crashes involving vehicles parked up on the hard shoulder across the whole of the rest of the network in England – around 1,800 miles of road.

In response, Highways England says ALR smart motorways are as safe as traditional motorways and make journey times more reliable.

Highways England says it will continue to make design changes to smart motorways, including introducing systems that detect stationary vehicles.



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    If road safety moves towards obligatory online refresher training, I wonder how they propose to deal with those without internet access (for whatever reason) or where access speeds are still so incredibly slow that video clips etc won’t run properly.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Why should we have such courses primarily about road safety run by amateur and not professional institutions. Many have ‘trainers’ that can only be classified as assessors and advisers as they cannot be classified as teachers and are not qualified except by in house qualifications. As such they can only work free of charge, They are just lay persons. Were not lay persons or should I say well intentioned volunteers removed from the then training schemes in the 1970’s to be replaced with authorised and therefore paid instruction for all.

    Although I am in favour of further training all that will happen is that many persons undertaking such a course will obviously pay a course fee and many, the vast majority, will be issued with a pass and IAM Roadsmart will benefit financially. What happens to those that fail such a course. Back to driver training and DVSA examinations.

    With regards to extra training throughout one’s life perhaps the internet could be full of impersonators. How can one adjudicate from a PC that the person at the other PC is who they say that they are?

    Agree (1) | Disagree (0)

    I agree with Les.

    It is astonishing that we let people loose in potential killing machines with no need for CPD once they have passed a basic test.

    Post test tuition is available from IAM RoadSmart and should be a requirement every 10 years or so to keep people up to date and with appropriate skills.

    Mike, Rickmansworth
    Agree (1) | Disagree (0)

    Les, I think the problem you are alluding to is the fact that there is no post test education or training system in place for drivers once they have past their test and that could be 50 or 60 years ago. We only have additional education for those who have committed offences. We now have this wonderful thing called the internet which is ideal for communicating with the masses. It is time that road safety was improved by introduced E-training for all driving licence holders. Educational presentations to update everyone about things like Smart motorways. Every couple of years a driver would be required to go on line watch a presentation and answer a few simple multiple choice questions to retain their licence.

    Derek, Hertfordshire
    Agree (7) | Disagree (2)

    I think the real issue here is that the general motorist has not been sufficiently engaged in the information showing how to use the new format motorways.

    As an ‘after the fact’ remedy the courses run by NDORS provoke the common response of “why were we not told about this?” yes we should do what we were informed about when we passed pur tests, but in fact very few will do so.

    It is naive to expect the general motorist to keep up to date with the HWC although we all try to push the app which is regularly updated, unfortunately the HWC information on Smart Motorways is found wanting.

    So my message would be for Highways England and the DVLA to ensure that information is included in all transactions involving a licence, especially as learners are being trained on Motorways!

    Les Hammond, Huntingdon
    Agree (1) | Disagree (0)

    It seems as though this is just another case of bizarre logic in the interests of road safety. I should think the police and other emergency services would be up in arms on this one. And, anyway, why would you need statistics to prove something so blatantly obvious?

    They might need wider motorways in order to improve traffic flow but I am afraid this situation is just a by-product of our increasingly overcrowded and congested island and I think we just have to live with it because in all probability it is only going to get worse. Not the best Chrismas message perhaps but, that’s the way it is I’m afraid.

    Nigel ALBRIGHT
    Agree (4) | Disagree (2)

    Disappointing that neither the RSGB article or the BBC piece quotes actual before and after casualty statistics. Those published to date (for M25 stretches) show an improvement in casualty figures whilst also improving journey times.

    Peter, Merseyside
    Agree (8) | Disagree (3)

    I would also agree with MPs with this one – mostly because I don’t particularly see the benefits in it and partly because mass implementation of speed cameras on motorways has never been something I’ve been too particularly fond with

    But, as I’ve alluded to in the past, what is it with blue signs that somehow makes a road dangerous?

    People complain about lack of hard shoulders on roads with blue signs, yet roads with green or white signage (that may also be D3 or D4) are totally fine without hard shoulders, somehow!

    David Weston, Corby
    Agree (1) | Disagree (12)

    I go along with the MPs on this one.

    I would be interested to see the Highways England risk assessment of the safety. Perhaps they would like some help re-writing its terms of reference?

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (12) | Disagree (4)

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