Smart motorways: video shows stranded van on M1 near Sheffield, close to scene of double fatal crash

This new video showing drivers taking evasive action to avoid a stranded van has raised fresh fears over the safety of so-called smart motorways.

By Robert Cumber
Monday, 10th January 2022, 11:18 am
Updated Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 8:53 pm

It was filmed on the M1 in South Yorkshire, just past the Tinsley viaduct near junction 34, and close to Meadowhall and the spot where two men were killed in a horror crash in 2019.

The footage, recorded on Wednesday, January 5, at 7.24pm, on the southbound carriageway, was shared with the campaign group Smart Motorways Kill, which is demanding an end to the controversial all lanes running motorways where there is no hard shoulder.

Smart motorways like the stretch of the M1 in South Yorkshire feature emergency refuge areas and gantries with electronic signs which can be activated in the case of a crash or breakdown.

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A still from a video showing a van stranded in lane one of the M1 near Sheffield, close to the spot where Jason Mercer (right) was one of two people killed in a crash in 2019. The clip has been shared by the campaign group Smart Motorways Kill, which is calling for all lanes running motorways, where there is no hard shoulder, to be scrapped

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Crashes on South Yorkshire's roads claimed the lives of 36 people in 2021

But campaigners say this footage shows the intended safety measures often don’t work, putting lives at risk.

In this clip, a stranded van is just visible amid the darkness in a live lane of the motorway, with the 60mph limit still showing overhead and the red X signs which are supposed to appear to close the lane in such an event not displaying.

One driver can be seen taking evasive action to avoid the vehicle after appearing to spot it late.

Claire Mercer with her late husband Jason, who was one of two people killed in a crash on the M1 near Sheffield in 2019. She says a new clip showing a van stranded in a live lane of the motorway close to the spot where her husband dies is further evidence that all lanes running motorways are not safe

In a statement about the latest incident, Smart Motorways Kill said: “All lanes in this footage, recorded a few nights ago, are open according to the gantry and other foolproof systems in place to automatically detect stranded vehicles. Yet not only is there an undetected vehicle stopped in the live running lane, its almost completely obscured by darkness.

“And this is at the exact junction where less than three years ago a particularly horrific failure of the smart motorways system led to the formation of this campaign.

“Nothing has been learnt. (Transport Secretary) Grant Shapps, National Highways, Department for Transport, tell me how well smart motorways work. Better yet, tell Jason and Alexandru how well they work!”

The clip was shared by a driver, who wrote: “Lucky it wasn’t busy but that stretch of motorway is far too dark for that. Hope nothing has happened to the van since I passed.”

National Highways smart motorways programme director David Bray said: “Safety remains our top priority and our motorways are the safest type of road in the country.

“We are determined to do all we can to help drivers feel safe and be safe on all our roads. We will work with drivers to make increasingly busy motorways safer for everyone who uses them.”

The Star has contacted the Department for Transport for a response.