TSC: Do not ignore smart motorway safety concerns

The Transport Select Committee says the government must not ignore safety concerns presented by its recent All lane running report.

In a report published in June, the TSC warned that government should not proceed with ‘All lane running’ schemes while major safety concerns exist. The Committee argued that the permanent conversion of the hard shoulder into a running lane is a radical change to the nature of motorways and creates a real challenge for motorists.

However, Ministers seem determined to press ahead with the latest design of all lane running schemes, ignoring the concerns expressed by MPs and other motoring organisations.

Louise Ellman, chair of the Transport Select Committee, commented: “The Department for Transport is blatantly ignoring the safety concerns set out in our report. We had barely received the response to our report before the government endorsed an all lane running scheme on the M4.

“The Committee isn’t arguing with the government about the need for more capacity on our motorways, or their statement that motorways are our safest roads. We support smart motorways such as the M42 scheme.

“But we take real issue with the government’s assertion that all lane running schemes on motorways are no different to other types of roads without hard shoulders. Motorways are a different class of road and drivers have different expectations when using them.

“In the same response, Ministers recognise that the public needs to learn about variable speed limits and compliance with Red X signals on these motorways. Even then, we believe that education will fail without enforcement and ministers need to ensure that failure to comply is backed up with effective enforcement.

“The Committee remains concerned about the size and spacing of Emergency Refuge Areas. While we are pleased that Highways England has committed to a review, the M4 proposal should not have gone ahead until the review is complete.

“We are not the only people who are worried about this incarnation of All lane running schemes. In the course of our inquiry, there were genuine concerns raised by the emergency services, road workers and recovery operators. The government cannot ignore them.”

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