Smart rollout of highways set to be halted due to safety concerns – MEPs

The deployment of smart highways should be suspended due to security concerns, MEPs said.

A report by the Commons’ Transport Select Committee (TSC) said there was not enough economic and safety data to justify the continuation of the project.

He described the government’s decision in March 2020 that all future smart highways would be all-lane versions – where the emergency lane is used as a permanent traffic lane – as “premature.”

Concerns have been raised following fatal incidents involving broken down vehicles struck from behind.

Smart highways are used as a cheaper way to increase capacity (Martin Rickett / PA)

Protesters protesting against smart highways marched with coffins to Parliament on Monday.

The TSC urged ministers to “consider alternative options to improve capacity” on the highways.

The committee’s report said: “The government and national highways should suspend the deployment of new traffic programs on all lanes until five years of safety and economic data is available for each traffic program on all roads. lanes introduced before 2020 and the implementation of safety improvements in the government’s action plan has been independently assessed.

Controlled smart highways – which have a permanent emergency lane and use technology to regulate the speed and flow of traffic – have the “lowest fatality rates” of all roads crossing highways and major highways. A roads in England, the report notes.

He called on the Ministry of Transport to “reexamine the case” to install them in place of all-lane highways.

Measures included in an 18-point action plan to improve smart highway safety released in March 2020 – such as modernizing technology to identify stopped vehicles – fail to “fully address the risks associated with the removal of the emergency lane “, warned the deputies.

Relatives of those killed on smart highways have called for the emergency lane to be permanently reinstalled on the roads.

But the committee was “not convinced” that such a policy would enhance security.

He concluded: “Evidence suggests this could put more drivers and passengers at risk of death and serious injury.

“The government is right to focus on improving the safety of all-lane highways.”

The report recommended that emergency refuge areas be redeveloped on existing highways at all lanes to separate them by 0.75 miles “where physically possible” and a maximum of one mile one of the lanes. ‘other.

Conservative MP Huw Merriman, who chairs the committee, said: “Looking at the available evidence, smart highways appear to be safer than conventional highways, even after the emergency lane is removed.

“However, this evidence is also questionable. Only 29 miles of these all-lane smart highways have been operating for more than five years.

“It therefore seems too early, and uncertain, to use this as an evidence base to remove the emergency lane from entire swathes of our motorway network.”

Claire Mercer, whose husband Jason Mercer died on a section of the M1 smart highway in June 2019, gave a mixed response to the report.

Asked about the findings, she told the PA news agency: “I don’t think they’re strong enough.”

But she welcomed the recommendation to suspend the deployment of smart highways, because “it will give us more time to go to the High Court and have them banned anyway.”

Conservative MP Sir Mike Penning, who claims he was misled when he supported the deployment of smart highways in his role as highways minister from 2010 to 2012, said the TSC’s findings were “another milestone in the fight to improve safety on these highways “.

RAC Road Policy Officer Nicholas Lyes said: “We think there remains a huge question mark as to whether it is fair that even more money is spent on deploying new highways. all-round intelligent while there are clearly viable alternatives. “

Coronavirus - Tue 8 Dec  2020
Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps has pledged to make smart highways as safe as possible, Department of Transportation (PA) said

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Transport said: “We welcome the scrutiny of the Transport Committee and will now consider its recommendations in detail, providing a formal response in due course. This is serious work to which we will engage closely in the months to come.

“We are delighted that the TSC recognizes that reestablishing the emergency lane on all highways to all lanes could put more drivers and passengers at risk of death and serious injury and that we are right. focus on improving their safety, as the Secretary of State pledged to do when he became Secretary of Transportation.

“We recognize that improvements have not always been made as quickly as they could have been in the past, but as the committee indicated, the Secretary of Transportation is absolutely committed to making smart highways as safe. possible, including committing £ 500million on upgrades and the faster roll-out of stopped vehicle detection.

Smart highways were first introduced in England in 2014 as a cheaper way to increase capacity compared to widening pavements.

There are around 375 miles of smart highways in England, 235 miles without an emergency lane.

An additional 300 miles are expected to be open by 2025.

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