Smart motorways are set to come under intense scrutiny tonight during an episode of BBC’s Panorama programme (8.30pm).
A Freedom of Information (FoI) request sent by Panorama to Highways England – reported by BBC News – shows 38 people have been killed on smart motorways in the last five years.
The FoI request also reveals on one section of the M25, the number of near misses has risen 20-fold since the hard shoulder was removed in April 2014.
In the five years before the road was converted into a smart motorway there were 72 near misses. In the five years after, there were 1,485.
During tonight’s episode ‘Panorama, Britain’s Killer Motorways?’, transport secretary Grant Shapps says he wants to ‘fix’ smart motorways because they are too confusing for drivers.
He also says the findings of a government review are due to be announced shortly, and will include recommendations to improve safety.
The BBC understands this will include scrapping dynamic smart motorways, where the hard shoulder is opened to traffic during busy periods – but closed at others.
A vehicle detection system – which can spot stranded vehicles as soon as drivers break down – will be fitted across the whole smart motorway network over the next three years, while there will also be more emergency lay-bys.
Meanwhile, the former government minister who approved the roll-out of smart motorways tells Panorama he was misled about the risks of taking away the hard shoulder.
Sir Mike Penning agreed to the expansion in 2010 after a successful pilot on the M42 near Birmingham.
An all-party group of MPs, led by Mr Penning, will publish a report on Monday that accuses Highways England of “a shocking degree of carelessness”.
Panorama, Britain’s Killer Motorways? is on BBC One at 8.30pm on Monday 27 January.