MPs say £6bn smart motorways programme could pose major safety risks

MPs have attacked the government’s plans to use hard shoulders as live lanes for traffic as part of its £6bn smart motorways programme, saying it poses major safety risks.

The transport committee said the permanent loss of the hard shoulder in all lane running schemes was a “radical change” and, given the major safety concerns, “an unacceptable price to pay for such improvements.”

Transport committee Louise Ellman said: “The permanent removal of the hard shoulder is a dramatic change. All kinds of drivers, including the emergency services, are genuinely concerned about the risk this presents.

“It is undeniable that we need to find ways of dealing with traffic growth on the strategic network. But All Lane Running does not appear to us to be the safe, incremental change the Department wants us to think it is.

“While ‘smart motorways’ have existed for years, this is fundamentally different. Government needs to demonstrate that All Lane Running schemes do not make the road any less safe that the traditional motorway with a hard shoulder.”

The government has argued all lane running is an incremental change and a logical extension of previous schemes.

Previous schemes have only used the hard shoulder at peak times or to deal with congestion.

Simon Benfield, team director: bridges south, at Ramboll commented: “The hard shoulder on motorways represents a perception of safety that is greater than the reality. All that separates the hard shoulder from 70mph traffic is a white line.

“Despite projecting a sense of safety, over 1,500 people are killed or injured every year on the hard shoulder […]

“By adopting Smart Motorways over traditional widening it is possible to provide improvements in many more areas around the network thus providing a positive improvement for many more people.”