Many constituents have contacted me with their concerns since the M60 became a smart motorway. I understand their anxieties. At least 38 people have been killed on smart motorways in the last five years. On one section of the M25, outside London, the number of near misses has risen 20-fold since the hard shoulder was removed in April 2014. In the five years before the road was converted into a smart motorway, there were just 72 near misses. In the five years after, there were 1,485.
So I’m proud to stand with my Labour colleagues, including Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon, to call for the immediate suspended use of the hard shoulder for driving traffic.
In December 2020 a Coroner concluded a lack of hard shoulder on the M1 in South Yorkshire contributed to the deaths of Jason Mercer and Alexandru Murgeanu, and went further to say smart motorways presented an ongoing risk of future deaths.
By the Secretary of State for transport’s own admission, smart motorways are anything but smart. Smart motorways allow cars to drive on the hard shoulder of motorways, a practice known as all lane running. So rather than a normal motorway being three lanes and a hard shoulder in case a car breaks down, on these roads cars there is no constant lane there for people to use if they come into trouble.
Even the former Roads Minister, Tory MP Mike Penning, who introduced the programme in 2010 admitted it was “a gross public policy failure.”
Enough is enough. It’s time for action.
How many more people must die before the Government makes the right decision?