Transport secretary Grant Shapps told the House of Commons yesterday that no more smart motorway would open until he was convince that they were “at least as safe, if not safer” than the rest of the network. At the moment, he is not. He has ordered a ‘stocktake of evidence’.
On Monday this week a BBC Panorama documentary highlighted concerns about the safety of smart motorways – the absence of hard shoulders, refuge areas up to 2.5 miles apart, absence of vehicle radar detection technology that had been promised and 38 deaths in five years.
The chairman of the Police Federation described smart motorways as “inherently dangerous” and “a death trap”.
Highways England admitted that stopped vehicle detection was operational only on the M25 and in construction on the M3, but nowhere else.
During a debate on road safety in the House of Commons yesterday, Tracey Crouch, MP for Chatham & Aylesford in Kent, said: “The secretary of state will be aware that the stretch of the M20 that runs through my constituency is due to open as an all-lane-running motorway in March, but it does not have stopped vehicle detection systems or appropriately spaced emergency refuges. I appreciate that it will be frustrating for those using it to continue to have cones and low speed limits, but does he agree that, given the concerns about safety on all-lane-running motorways, it should not open until all those measures have been put in place?”
Transport secretary Grant Shapps replied: “I am grateful to my honourable friend, who has campaigned on this issue for a long time. That stretch of the M20, and all other stretches that are currently being worked on, will not be opened until we have the outcome of the stocktake.”