The Government’s intention to “extract the maximum capacity from the motorway network at the lowest possible cost” could jeopardise road safety, says the Association of British Drivers (ABD).
Until now, ‘managed motorway’ schemes only allowed the hard shoulder to be used as a running lane at times of peak traffic flow, when variable speed limits apply. But now, starting with a managed motorway scheme on part of the M1, the hard shoulder will be in use at all times, often with the speed limit at 70mph. The distance between refuge areas will be four times greater, and the outside lane will also be reduced in width to 3.2 metres from 3.65 metres.
The ABD says it expressed its concerns about the safety of managed motorways when they were first proposed in 2004, and discussed these concerns with the consultants working on the pilot M42 scheme.
Malcolm Heymer, the ABD’s traffic management adviser, said: “The consultants explained at length how the safety issues were going to be addressed. I was impressed with the sincerity of their determination to produce a safe and effective scheme. Subsequent experience shows that, whilst there are other issues with the usefulness and application of variable limits, the current schemes work reasonably well with regard to safety.
“These new proposals, however, show that we were right to be concerned that managed motorways were the thin end of a make-do-and-mend wedge, and now it seems even safety is to be compromised to reduce costs further.”
The ABD claims it is not alone in its fears about the safety of future managed motorway schemes. Local authorities and emergency services in South Yorkshire have voiced their concerns about the M1 scheme, with the emergency services commissioning an independent review of the plans.
Brian Gregory, ABD chairman, says: “These cost-cutting proposals are a step too far and we call on the House of Commons Transport Committee to hold an inquiry into their safety as a matter of urgency. With drivers paying five times as much in taxes as is spent on the road network, we deserve better.”
For more information contact the ABD on 0870 4442535.