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:
- 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.