Government to hold consultation around the safety of smart motorways

So called smart motorways are to come under the spotlight as the government looks to hold a consultation around the safety of the new roads

Government to hold consultation around the safety of smart motorways

SMART MOTORWAYS are to come under the scrutiny in the coming weeks as MPs call for an investigation into the roads as they are deemed ‘too complicated’ by the head of Highways England.

In a report on the BBC, it states that Highways England boss Jim O’Sullivan has said he would not be building any more of the dynamic smart motorways as the current crop are ‘too complicated’ and ‘many motorists do not understand them’.

“Some hard shoulders on dynamic smart motorways are only open to running traffic during the morning and evening peaks, but this catches out some drivers when their routine changes,” he told MPs. “When we close it at other times of the day, people still drive down it. We get people who stop there when it's a running lane. I don't think we will be building any more dynamic hard shoulder smart motorways. They're just too complicated for people to use.”

The news follows the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Schapps who has told MPs that “We know people are dying on smart motorways.”

What is a smart motorway?

A smart motorway is a section of motorway that uses real-time traffic management to try and prevent delays and congestion. They are also claimed to increase the capacity of the stretch of road, by using variable speed limits and hard shoulder running at busy times.

Some smart motorways use ALR – All Lanes Running – which is where the hard shoulder is taken up by moving traffic all the time, effectively it becomes what is called an active lane.

Other systems only allow the hard shoulder to be driven in when there is a lot of congestion on that part of the road.

What is the problem with smart motorways?

The main issue people have with the system is the lack of space for broken down vehicles to pull off an active carriageway, especially is the road is an ALR motorway. There are refuges spread along the side of the motorway, although the chances of being able to reach one if your vehicle loses all power or drive are slim.

Since implemented there have been several deaths, which opponents argue would not have occurred had the victim had a safe place to exit the live lanes. One of the most shocking was Mr. Jason Mercer who was involved in a minor collision with another diver. When they got out to exchange details, they were both hit by a lorry and killed.

One of the issues is that these types of roads are supposed to be covered by stopped vehicle alerts, that allow the traffic controllers to pick up on the location of the stopped vehicle and close that lane. The problem is not all smart motorways, ALR included, have the system fitted. Those that do can also be hampered by certain weather conditions such as thick fog.

What did Grant Schapps say to MPs?

The BBC reports that Mr. Shapps was speaking to MPs on the Commons Transport Select Committee about the matter, he said. “I have asked my department to carry out at pace an evidence stock-take to gather the facts quickly and make recommendations.”

Mr. Schapps department is to lead the review “because some of the statistics have been difficult to understand, and we know people are dying on smart motorways”.

He added: “Understanding whether they are less safe, the same or safer - it turns out not to be as straightforward as members might imagine - I want all of those facts and recommendations that can be put into place to ensure that all of our motorways are as safe as they possibly can be.”

“I will get this done in a matter of weeks.”

Do you use smart motorways? Are they a godsend for motorists or an accident waiting to happen?

Let us know in the comments below.