Smart motorways: Police commissioner backs calls for 'pause' of smart motorway roll-out
South Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner has backed calls for a pause on the roll-out of ‘smart motorways’, after it was recommended by MPs.
And his views were echoed by lawyers representing families who have lost loved ones on the M1 and by motorists on the streets of Sheffield.
Alan Billings said he was very pleased that the House of Commons Transport Safety Committee had called for a pause in rolling out ‘All Lanes Running’ (ALR) motorways until there has been more research into their safety, the day after Rotherham widow Claire Mercer led a protest outside parliament again the system which has no hard shoulder.
Her husband died after being struck on the M1 on a stretch of that type of motorway. He was hit by a lorry after having stopped because of a minor collision.
Mr Billings said: “I have always supported Claire Mercer’s campaign against them, especially since local coroners in South Yorkshire made it clear that these motorways contributed towards deaths.
“I remain firmly convinced that the way in which safety is measured is flawed.
Restore the hard shoulder
“I believe the government has to stop any further roll-out of these plans and restore the hard shoulder.”
Lawyers have given a cautious welcome to the committee’s report, pointing out that more still needs to be done in the light of ongoing concerns.
The report stated to guard against the introduction of unsafe changes, the roll-out of ALR motorways should be paused until five years of safety data is available.
Families of those killed and seriously injured
Irwin Mitchell represents the families of those killed and seriously injured, including Mrs Mercer, whose husband Jason died on the M1 near Sheffield in June 2019.
Helen Smith, the specialist public law and human rights lawyer at the firm, said: “We have continued to investigate evidence around existing ALRs and concerns over their safety and we are in agreement with campaigners like Claire who argue that much more needs to be done before the public can be reassured that such roads do not compromise safety to an unacceptable standard.
“This report is just the latest in a line of studies that suggest much more needs to be done and the proposal of a pause in the roll-out is a good start but the very real concerns of campaigns and the wider public will not go away.
Action by Claire Mercer from Rotherham
“The Government needs to recognise the report’s findings and in doing so, accept the roll-out of ALRs was premature and take tangible action to improve road safety. It should not take the experiences of people like Claire and others to force action and deliver safer roads for all.”
People in Sheffield city centre shared their views with The Star.
Graham Sinclair, from Barnsley, said: “I don’t really think its a very good idea. If there is a breakdown, especially on the outside lane, I don’t see how you can get across safely to the side. We’ve been very close to accidents where we were very nearly affected.
“There are simply not enough safe places on what would be the hard shoulder.”
Gary Beck, from Arbourthorne, said: “I don’t think it’s a good idea. No hard shoulder is ridiculous.”
But Khizar Hayat, from Lancashire, thought smart motorways were a good idea. He said: “It’s safe.”