Shapps pauses Smart motorway rollout amid safety concerns

Aaron Morby 2 weeks ago
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Transport secretary Grant Shapps is slamming the brakes on new smart motorway schemes until a full 5 years’ worth of safety data is available.

Scheme under construction will be allowed to finish
Scheme under construction will be allowed to finish

The decision to pause all lane running schemes follows recommendations from the Transport select committee, that new schemes are halted until 5 years’ worth of safety data can be collected and assessed for schemes opened before 2020.

Shapps said that the government would assess the data once this milestone was met and make an informed decision on next steps.

The Government will also invest an extra £390m to install more than 150 additional emergency areas bringing the total committed Smart motorway safety spend to £900m.

This will represent around a 50% increase in places to stop by 2025, giving drivers added reassurance.

While further data is being collected, National Highways will continue work to complete schemes that are currently in construction. These will all open with technology in place to detect stopped vehicles.

These schemes are all more than 50% completed and halting progress on them now would cause significant disruption for drivers, said National Highways.

Design work will also continue on those schemes already being planned, so they are ready to be constructed depending on the outcome of the pause. No preparatory construction work will take place.

While DfT will be taking forward all the recommendations set out by the Transport select committee, the Government said it did not agree with the view that smart motorways were rolled out prematurely or unsafely.

Shapps said: “One of my first actions as Transport Secretary was to order a stocktake of smart motorways and since then, I have worked consistently to raise the bar on their safety.

“I am grateful to the Transport Committee and to all those who provided evidence for its work.

“While our initial data shows that smart motorways are among the safest roads in the UK, it’s crucial that we go further to ensure people feel safer using them.

“Pausing schemes yet to start construction and making multimillion-pound improvements to existing schemes will give drivers confidence and provide the data we need to inform our next steps.”

National Highways CEO Nick Harris said: “While we pause those all lane running schemes yet to start construction, we will complete the schemes currently in construction.

“We will make existing sections as safe as they can possibly be and we will step up our advice to drivers so they have all the information they need.”

We are doing this because safety is our absolute priority and we want drivers to not just be safer, but also to feel safe on our busiest roads.

Also, in line with the committee’s recommendations, National Highways will pause the conversion of dynamic hard shoulder (DHS) motorways – where the hard shoulder is open at busy times –  while it investigates alternative ways of operating them to make things simpler for drivers.

National Highways will also install technology to detect stopped vehicles on these sections.

 

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