Smart motorways set to stay in UK despite 38 people dying on them

Smart motorways are set to stay in the UK despite 38 people dying on them in five years, the Transport Secretary has announced.

Grant Shapps today concluded an "evidence stocktake" of the roads – which put traffic on what would be the hard shoulder at times of peak demand.

But despite admitting they were in some ways less safe than other motorways, he did not scrap them.

Instead the Transport Secretary announced an 18-point "action plan" to ensure safety on the roads.

The new plan will end the practice of temporarily turning the hard shoulder into a full-blown road lane.

Hard shoulders on "smart" motorways will be turned into permanent lanes by 2025 – but to compensate, new motorways will have to be proper 110-yard emergency stopping bays at least every mile, clearly marked and located on satnavs.


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Ministers will "consider" a national programme to build more emergency stopping areas on existing smart motorways, and build 10 extra emergency areas on the M25.

The review admitted there were "clusters of incidents" on smart sections of the M6 and M1 and promised an "urgent investigation" into what can be done to make the blackspots safer.

There will also be an order to detect broken-down vehicles more quickly, and get traffic officers to an incident within 10 minutes not 17.

Mr Shapps told MPs: "I've listened to friends and families affected and looked hard at the evidence.

"Overall the evidence shows that in most ways, smart motorways are as safe or safer than conventional ones but they're not in every way."

Smart motorways are used by Highways England to increase capacity and reduce congestion by using methods such as converting the hard shoulder into a live running lane, rather than the more costly process of widening roads.

Fears have been raised that this has created a safety hazard, with some drivers hit from behind and killed after being unable to reach an emergency refuge area, which are up to 1.6 miles apart.

An eight-year-old boy from Leicester is among the dozens who have died on the smart motorways.

A coroner warned of the dangers of the motorways after Dev Naran was killed in May 2018 when his granddad's stranded car was struck by a lorry on a hard shoulder of the M6 after it was opened to moving traffic.

Dev's grieving mother later told media her boy's death was 'preventable' as she blasted Highways England for not having the technology to spot stranded vehicles, and for scrapping the hard shoulders broken down drivers use as refuges while they await rescue.

A freedom of information request by BBC Panorama found that on one section of the M25, the number of near misses rose 20-fold since the hard shoulder was removed.

In the five years before the road was converted into a smart motorway there were just 72 near misses. In the five years after, there were 1,485.

The Transport Secretary’s study insisted the rate of serious casualties or fatal injuries was slightly lower on smart motorways than on the motorway network as a whole.

However, it accepted the serious casualty rate has, in the past, been higher. In 2015-18 the smart motorways accounted for 11.4% of serious casualties despite carrying 10.7% of traffic

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