Yesterday afternoon on the M27 on the south coast, a motorway that services two of the largest ports in the country; Portsmouth and Southampton, there was a miles long tail back following an accident. This in itself is not unusual on Britain’s crowded motorway network. What was different here that it was on one of the notorious SMART motorways where the safety lane had been removed.
A quarter of a billion pounds has been spent on the creation of this death trap. The works have been going on for what seems to be an eternity.
The M27 ground to a halt East-bound. Emergency vehicles were unable to attend as the disappearance of the safety lane meant they were stuck in traffic as well. Not so smart.
There are about 375 miles of smart motorway in England, including 235 miles without a hard shoulder. Somewhere in the bowels of Whitehall beavers the civil servants who thought this is a good plan, motorways on the cheap, without having to deal with protesters objecting for decades. Perhaps they are not beavering away, but have just collected their gongs and pension and gone into leafy retirement?
"One of my first actions as Transport Secretary was to order a stock take of smart motorways and, since then, I have worked consistently to raise the bar on their safety.
"While our initial data shows that smart motorways are among the safest roads in the UK, it’s crucial that we go further to ensure people feel safer using them."
The real human cost are the deaths on these ‘SMART’ motorways.
The latest data shows there have been 63 fatalities on stretches of smart motorway between 2015 and 2019 and a BBC Panorama investigation showed near misses between broken down and moving vehicles on one stretch of the M25 had risen 20-fold since the removal of the hard shoulder - January 2022.
This central planning madness has caused a pause in further construction for five years following disquiet by a Parliamentary Committee, plus the building of more ‘refuges’.
Central State Planning has led directly to this insanity, Mr Shapps. it appears to reflect the view that the public simply need to be talked into accepting they are safe.
This party calls for the immediate reintroduction of the hard shoulder on all of the UK’s all alleged SMART motorways, for a public inquiry into this total and very expensive policy failure and for prosecutions of those responsible in Government.
A start would be warning signs; that you are about to enter a death trap and if you want to avoid becoming collateral and acceptable mortality rate and should seek an alternative route.
Andrew Withers FRSA