South Yorkshire police boss continues to raise concerns over 'danger' of smart motorways

South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner has written to the Transport Select Committee urging MPs to listen to growing concerns about the safety of smart motorways.

Monday, 8th March 2021, 8:17 am

Dr Alan Billings contacted the select committee after an inquiry was launched last week into the safety of smart motorways, public confidence in them and their impact on congestion.

In a letter, he reiterated his grave concerns expressed previously and urge MPs to take notice of what he and others in South Yorkshire are saying.

At a recent inquest into the deaths of two men killed on a stretch of smart motorway on the M1 near Sheffield in June 2019, Coroner David Urpeth said they ‘present an ongoing risk of future deaths’.

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Dr Alan Billings

His comments came after Jason Mercer, 44, from Rotherham and Alexandru Murgeanu, 22, from Mansfield, were killed when a lorry crashed into them after they stopped to exchange details following a minor collision where there was no hard shoulder.

In his letter to the select committee, Dr Billings said: “We do not believe we are being listened to or having our concerns adequately addressed by either the Department of Transport or Highways England.

“Our anxieties have increased following the comments of two coroners charged with conducting inquests into the deaths of three people whose vehicles were struck while stationary on the motorway. One coroner, as you will know, has concluded that the lack of a hard shoulder contributed towards the deaths of Jason Mercer and Alexandru Murgeanu and the other has asked South Yorkshire police to consider whether the death of Nardis Begum warrants corporate manslaughter charges being brought against Highways England.

“Whatever follows from these actions, the very fact that the coroners are saying these things causes us deep concerns.

“It remains my view that if a vehicle, for whatever reason, stops in a live lane because there is no hard shoulder and a refuge is too far away, this is inherently dangerous. It builds danger into the motorway when we should be designing danger out.”

Crash victim Mr Mercer’s widow, Claire Mercer, is campaigning for Highways England to be charged with corporate manslaughter over the creation of smart motorways.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.