Safety fears over M27 smart motorway conversion to be investigated in House of Commons

AN INVESTIGATION has been launched into the safety of smart motorways – but work on the M27 is unlikely to stop.

Friday, 26th February 2021, 5:22 pm
Updated Friday, 26th February 2021, 5:29 pm

The House of Commons’ Transport Select Committee has started the inquiry following growing concerns about existing projects.

Smart motorways allow motorists to drive along the hard shoulder, with refuge areas to pull into for breakdowns and crashes.

Others without a refuge switch the hard shoulder between use for live traffic or emergency services, depending on what is needed.

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Currently, the M27 is being converted into a smart motorway for £244m.

The inquiry has been launched after two people died when a lorry driver ploughed into their vehicles while they were stationary on the M1 in south Yorkshire.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps told the committee earlier this month that he ‘inherited’ smart motorways, and pledged to get ‘get rid of confusions’.

Leader of Fareham Borough Council, Cllr Sean Woodward, said people should not expect any change to the direction of the M27.

‘There are some pretty awful accidents that have happened on the motorways that have a dynamic hard shoulder,’ he said.

‘In terms of safety, the refuges have to be frequent enough along the M27 and the technology to close a lane has to be present and reliable.

‘I am intrigued to see what happens, but if people think that the M27 project will be abandoned then they will be left feeling disappointed.’

Under current proposals, the M27 will serve as a smart motorway from junction 4 to junction 11.

In February 2020, Conservative MP for Fareham Suella Braverman said in Westminster that the project is becoming ‘terrifying’.

She said then: ‘Many local people in Fareham are concerned about safety and are calling for the smart motorway upgrade on the M27 to be scrapped and reversed.’

Ms Braverman, now Attorney General for England and Wales, was contacted by The News for her thoughts on the investigation.

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: ‘There is an increasing level of concern around the safety of smart motorways from the driving public through to Westminster.

‘While a major review has identified a number of key actions to improve safety and some progress has been made, there is still a great deal of work to do which will take several years to complete.’

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