'The priority must always be the safety of motorists' - MPs react after government launch smart motorways review

WITH the smart motorway upgrade continuing on the M27, politicians have shared their concerns after the government decided to launch a review into driver safety.

Friday, 25th October 2019, 7:00 am
Smart motorways see overhead gantries install temporary speed limits.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told MPs yesterday ‘we know people are dying’ on smart motorways but added that greater detail is required on how safe they are compared to full motorways.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Shapps said: ‘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.’

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The review is hoped to be completed in a matter of weeks according to Shapps.

A £1.5bn scheme by Highways England will see the hard shoulder on the M27 between Junction 4 and Junction 11 converted into an extra lane with technology to manage the flow of traffic and reduce congestion.

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said: ‘Campaigners have told me having no hard shoulder puts motorists and recovery workers at risk. With a smart motorway coming to our area, I believe that we cannot leave any room for error.

‘I welcome my colleagues prompting an urgent review. All that remains is to confirm that this will be done by an independent body.’

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage said: ‘Local people are desperate for improvements to the M27 after years of enduring years of traffic jams and innumerable accidents.

‘However the priority must always be the safety of motorists which is why I welcome the Government launching this speedy review.’

Ex police officer Andy Snow told Fareham Borough Council leader, Councillor Sean Woodward, back in December last year about the dangers of smart motorways and warned that ‘people will die’.

Speaking about the safety review he said: ‘There is nothing smart about smart motorways. If anyone looked back at the traffic data for the last few months on the M27 and M3 they would see lots of hold ups because cars break down and there is nowhere for them to go.’ 

CCTV operators are supposed to spot breakdowns or crashes within a three-minute target and trigger a sign change to put a red X on any affected live lanes.

Last month police tweeted showing a black Citroen van stopped in lane in what was previously a hard shoulder, but is now a live lane, on the M27 near Junction 9 for Whiteley.

The @HantsPolRoads Twitter account said: ‘The downside to smart motorway.

‘This driver stuck in a dangerous location with nowhere safe to go. With no hard shoulder we need to protect him whilst recovery is called.’

The M27 scheme is due to be completed between 2020 and 2021.