'I think smart motorways are death traps and hard shoulders should be brought back'

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Rishi Sunak cancelled all future planned smart motorway projects in April last year.

Technology aimed at keeping drivers safe on smart motorways frequently stops working, an investigation has found.

There have been hundreds of incidents when safety equipment was out of action in recent years, figures obtained by BBC Panorama show.

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AA president Edmund King said these failures are “every driver’s worst nightmare” as he called for hard shoulders to be reinstated on all smart motorways where they have been removed.

Technology aimed at keeping drivers safe on smart motorways frequently stops working, an investigation has foundTechnology aimed at keeping drivers safe on smart motorways frequently stops working, an investigation has found
Technology aimed at keeping drivers safe on smart motorways frequently stops working, an investigation has found | Contributed

National Highways insists evidence shows all types of smart motorways are safer than conventional motorways in terms of deaths or serious injuries, and a series of safety improvements have been made since 2021.

Some 193 miles of all-lane running (ALR) smart motorways – which use the hard shoulder as a permanent live traffic lane – were built in England to increase capacity at a lower cost than widening roads.

There have been long-standing safety concerns after fatal incidents in which vehicles stopped in live lanes were hit from behind.

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National Highways insists evidence shows all types of smart motorways are safer than conventional motorwaysNational Highways insists evidence shows all types of smart motorways are safer than conventional motorways
National Highways insists evidence shows all types of smart motorways are safer than conventional motorways | Contributed

Camera and radar systems have been deployed in an attempt to spot stranded vehicles, but figures obtained by Panorama in response to a Freedom of Information request show there were 397 incidents of power outages on smart motorways between June 2022 and February 2024.

National Highways operational control director Andrew Page-Dove said: “Safety is our highest priority and our motorways are statistically some of the safest in the world, but there is still work to do as every death is a tragedy and every serious injury a life changed.

“We need to help everyone feel confident when using smart motorways.”

There have been long-standing safety concerns after fatal incidents in which vehicles stopped in live lanes were hit from behindThere have been long-standing safety concerns after fatal incidents in which vehicles stopped in live lanes were hit from behind
There have been long-standing safety concerns after fatal incidents in which vehicles stopped in live lanes were hit from behind | Contributed

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak cancelled all future planned smart motorway projects in April last year, citing financial pressures and a lack of public confidence in the roads.

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We asked residents in Lancashire what they thought about smart motorways and if they believed hard shoulders should be reinstated.

This is what they had to say:

Paul Derbyshire said: “Death traps. Said at the beginning. Nothing smart about them. I’ve been driving 53 years, never worried but now I think what would happen if you had a sudden breakdown and had to stop in the live lane.”

Maggie Muldoon Watson said: “Definitely death traps, the lanes are far too narrow, get rid of them.”

David Carty said: “There should be more smart motorways and make them faster.”

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Patrick Turner said: “All should be returned to normal motorways. Hard shoulder is necessary for an emergency.”

Alice Burwood said: “The thought of breaking down on a smart motorway terrifies me.”

Chris Nicholson said: “Smart motorways need smart drivers who can read and understand the signs.”

Antonia Maria said: “Hard shoulders are needed for breakdowns and emergencies which are important.”

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Helen McGillivray said: “Should never have been changed in the first place, dangerous without a hard shoulder.”

Peter Dunn said: “They are frightening to break down on.”

Arnstein Birkeland said: “How about smart drivers on the motorways instead?”

Brenda Smith said: “Hard shoulders should be reinstated. Variable speed would still be of benefit.”

Janice Crompton said: “90% didn’t want them in the first place.”

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Premonition Zed said: “Totally agree, smart motorways are dangerous and pointless.”

Helen Byfield said: “I think the priority is smarter people.”

Norma Partington said: “Nothing smart about any of our motorways. Especially with the potholes on them too.”

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