Government halts smart motorway rollout amid safety concerns


Safety concerns are preventing the rollout of “all-lane-running” smart motorways, the government has announced, though critics say the move doesn’t go far enough.

The Department of Transportation said Wednesday it would halt the expansion of motorways where hard shoulders are used as permanent live traffic lanes until five to assess whether they are safe for drivers. Year’s data has not been collected.

The decision follows a recommendation by the Commons Transport Select Committee which held that there was not enough safety and economic data to justify the continuation of the project.

In a report dated 2 November, the committee described the government’s decision in March 2020 that all future smart motorways would be all-lane-running versions as “premature”.

If they were killing or crippling their loved ones, they would move much faster and more

Concerns have been expressed after fatal incidents of broken vehicles colliding from behind due to no shoulders.

The government has promised to improve safety on existing motorways running in all lanes, but relatives of those killed on the roads have urged ministers to move forward by reinstating the hard shoulder.

Claire Mercer, whose husband Jason died in a smart motorway collision near Sheffield in 2019, said the government’s announcement was a missed opportunity.

Mrs Mercer of Rotherham told the PA news agency: “We have done review after review after review at Smart Motorway and never have they closed the first lane during an investigation.

“Just turn off a lane and you’ve got your hard shoulder back.

“You just need to throw a switch on the eight control centers and you’ve got your hard shoulder back immediately.”

Claire Mercer (center), whose husband died in a smart motorway accident, has campaigned to restore the hard shoulder (Aaron Chown/PA) , PA Wire

The campaigner added: “If they were killing or crippling their loved ones they would take a lot more steps.”