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Transport groups respond to UK’s Smart motorways review

Feb 02, 2020
Both the Freight Transport Association (FTA) and the Road Haulage Association (RHA) have responded positively to the news that an urgent government review will take place into the safety of so-called Smart motorways currently being rolled out in the UK.

The review, announced by Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, follows hot-on-the-heels of a damning report by the BBC’s Panorama programme which highlighted the dangers presented by the new road layouts.

Smart motorways use what was previously the ‘hard shoulder’ - a lane used only in an emergency - as a ‘live lane’, meaning that vehicles and their occupants are left stranded in the event of a breakdown or accident. Although ‘safe’ SOS areas are provided at regular intervals, the Panorama report showed that these were often more than a mile apart and did not give users of the motorway the protection they needed.  During the last five years, 38 people have been killed on Smart motorways after being hit by other vehicles.

RHA Chief Executive, Richard Burnett said, “Smart motorways undoubtedly increase capacity, but they are not as safe as they should be. They need bigger and more frequent refuge areas and better signage to ensure drivers understand when hard shoulders are closed to active running.  These are important issues on which we have been expressing our concerns since hard shoulder running was first introduced on the M42 in 2006.”

Meanwhile Chris Yarsley, Policy Manager for Road Infrastructure at FTA said, “FTA is calling on the government to take measures to improve the safety of Smart motorways. FTA’s members have found these roads to be effective in producing more reliable journey times, providing a tangible benefit to the UK economy, but the safety of road users must always take priority.”

“FTA welcomes suggestions of increased SOS areas and intelligent radar technology, but consistent and robust enforcement of the rules, and more public education, is what is needed to make them work. Smart motorways can be confusing to even the most experienced drivers. By reforming Smart motorways and ensuring drivers are comfortable with the way they work, we can ensure the UK benefits from a safer, more effective and efficient road network.”

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