smart motorways to be scrutinised in Parliament over ‘genuine worries’

The UK’s network of smart motorways is to be the subject of a parliamentary inquiry into their safety and effectiveness

smart motorway

THE Parliament’s Transport Committee will be conducting an inquiry into the UK’s so-called smart motorways. The inquiry is reported to be in response to ‘genuine worries’ over the effectiveness and safety of the roads.

Smart motorways were first introduced in the UK in 2002 and were heralded by the then government as being a major step forward in terms of improving safety and journey times. The premise is that the flow of traffic is controlled by variable speed limits along the route, supposedly preventing congestion further along the road.

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The problems with smart motorways really started with the introduction of All Lane Running (ALR) type roads, where the hard shoulder is converted into another lane for permanent use.

Public concern over smart motorway network at an all-time high

Public concern over this type of road has grown in recent months, with a spate of road deaths being attributed to these ALR types of roads. Earlier this year the smart motorway network came under fire from coroner David Urpeth and a senior police figurehead, who claimed the roads were “inherently unsafe and dangerous and should be abandoned”

The Chair of the Transport Committee, Huw Merriman MP, said:

“The Department for Transport says smart motorways help us cope with a 23 per cent rise in traffic since 2000, helping congestion. The Department’s own Stocktake report points to lower fatal casualty rates for smart motorways without a permanent hard shoulder than on motorways with a hard shoulder. The serious casualty rate is slightly higher.

“This message isn’t reaching the public, whose confidence in smart motorways has been dented by increasing fatalities on these roads. Road safety charities are also expressing concerns. Will enhanced safety measures help? Will the public accept them following an awareness campaign? Or should there be a rethink of government policy? There are genuine worries about this element of the motorway network and we want to investigate how we got to this point.”

This seemingly universal negative feeling hasn’t gone unnoticed, as parliament has announced that that transport select committee is to conduct an inquiry into the roads. The committee is accepting written evidence from the public with a deadline set for the 9th of April.

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