MPs raise smart motorway concerns

MPs have called for the rollout of smart motorways to be suspended due to safety concerns.

A report by the Commons’ Transport Select Committee (TSC) said there is not enough safety and economic data to justify continuing with the project, and urged ministers to consider alternative options for enhancing capacity on motorways.

The committee’s report said: “The government and National Highways should pause the rollout of new all-lane running schemes until five years of safety and economic data is available for every all-lane running scheme introduced before 2020 and the implementation of the safety improvements in the government’s action plan has been independently evaluated.”

Controlled smart motorways, which only use the hard shoulder as a live traffic lane during peak periods, have the lowest casualty rates of all roads across motorways and major A roads in England, the report noted.

Conservative MP Huw Merriman, who chairs the committee, said: “Looking at the available evidence, smart motorways do appear to be safer than conventional motorways even once the hard shoulder is removed. However, this evidence is also open to question. Only 29 miles of these all-lane running smart motorways have operated for over five years.

“It therefore feels too soon, and uncertain, to use this as an evidence base to remove the hard shoulder from swathes of our motorway network.”

There are about 375 miles of smart motorway in England, including 235 miles without a hard shoulder. An additional 300 miles are scheduled to be opened by 2025.