Industry reacts to scrapping of new smart motorways

Following the Prime Minister’s decision to rule out the building of new smart motorways, the industry has been giving its reaction.

Max Sugarman, Chief Executive at Intelligent Transport Systems UK (ITS UK), said: “Whilst we acknowledge that the Government will stop construction of all new smart motorways, it is important to note that these roads are some of the safest in the UK and perform better, overall, than conventional motorways in terms of serious and fatal injuries.

“National Highways is already working with industry in rolling out safety improvements and to increase public awareness of what to do if you breakdown on a smart motorway, both of which are essential in making smart motorways even safer still.

“We welcome the £900m for further safety improvements the Government has set out. It’s important the industry now works together with Government to continue rolling out technical solutions to support greater safety and that we learn lessons on how we communicate these projects to the public more effectively, ensuring there is sufficient visibility, acceptance and trust in the application of data and technology to improve road safety moving forwards.”

Margaret Winchcomb, Deputy-Executive Director at the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety said: “PACTS is pleased that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has recognised the importance of safe roads and acknowledged that without sufficient financial support smart motorways cannot be safe enough.

“PACTS vision is that that no one should be harmed while travelling. All road deaths are tragic and most are preventable. Campaigners have shown that road safety matters to the public – even on the “safest roads” in the UK. PACTS applauds the efforts of victims’ families and road safety campaigners to highlight this and demand action.

“Smart motorways have been controversial since their initiation. This has eroded public confidence in them. However this also means that the benefits which could be gained from them have been lost. Motorways, while not safe enough, are our safest roads. Other parts of the Strategic Road Network have much higher casualty rates per mile travelled.

“PACTS recognises that the government decision to cancel all new smart motorways is part of their implementation of  recommendations made by the Transport Select Committee in their 2021 report. However, it is not right to ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’. There must be continued delivery of systems where evidence exists to support their value. The promised investment of £900 million into further safety improvements on existing smart motorways will go some way to do this.”

RAC road safety spokesman Simon Williams said:  “This is a watershed announcement and a victory for everyone who has campaigned against these motorways that, by their design, put drivers in more danger should they be unlucky enough to break down on one. 

“Our research shows all lane running smart motorways are deeply unpopular with drivers so we’re pleased the Government has finally arrived at the same conclusion. It’s now vitally important that plans are made for making the hundreds of existing miles of these types of motorway as safe as possible. The possibility of converting all lane running stretches to the ‘dynamic hard shoulder’ configuration, where the hard shoulder is open and closed depending on the levels of traffic, could be one option the Government considers.”

Writing in the Telegraph, Edmund King of the AA said: “The scandal has left blood on the hands of those involved.

“Officials knew that moving the goalposts from emergency areas every 400 to 500m on the pilot M42 to every 2,500m when rolled out across the network would cost lives. This was motorway widening on the cheap and at least 40 people have paid the ultimate price. This is the scandal of smart motorways.

“I wrote to Rishi Sunak pleading for action on Good Friday and am delighted that the Prime Minister has at last listened to the people. I welcome the decision that all planned smart motorways will be scrapped. This is a victory for common sense and safety that I whole-heartedly welcome.”

More to follow.

(Picture – Highways News)


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