The government is set to review safety of smart motorways, following an investigation by the Telegraph.
The study by the news outlet highlighted the number of motorists being killed where hard shoulders were being taken away.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told MPs that “we know people are dying” on smart motorways, but he added that greater analysis is needed to see how safe they are compared to standard motorways.
Mr Shapps told MPs in the Commons: “The House I know is very concerned about smart motorways.
“I’ve heard those concerns raised today and previously and I have asked my department to carry out at pace an evidence stocktake to gather the facts quickly and make recommendations.”
After Lillian Greenwood, Labour chairwoman of the Transport Select Committee, asked if the review would be carried out by the Department for Transport or an independent body, Mr Shapps said: “I will ensure that it’s the department that is making decisions on this because I think some of the statistics have been difficult to understand, and we know people are dying on smart motorways.
“Of course, we know 70 or 80 people die a year on full motorways.
“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.”
These comments came after Jim O’Sullivan, chief executive of Highways England, said many drivers were confused about how smart motorways worked. He said drivers were confused when they could use the hard shoulder and when it is closed to non-emergency traffic.
Mr O’Sullivan told the House of Commons’ Transport Select Committee that the schedule for opening the hard shoulder confuses drivers if their routine changes.
He said: “People whose normal daily commute takes place at 8am or 9am, if they’ve been to the dentist and come out at 11am they drive down the hard shoulder,” he said. When we close it at other times of the day, people still drive down it.”
AA president Edmund King said: “We have been raising concerns for more than six years about the dangers to the 38 per cent who break down in a live lane on smart motorways.
“We know there are real situations where lives would have been saved if drivers on smart motorways had somewhere safe to stop. We owe it to all drivers to give them a safe harbour to stop if their vehicle develops problems.”
October 25, 2019