Motorway decision not so Smart

Smart motorway in operation cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Bill Boaden -

LibDems renew call for halt to A1(M) ‘upgrade’ as Highways England carry on regardless

After visiting the “Information event” put on by Highways England last Friday outside Waitrose in WGC, local LibDem Councillors expressed deep concerns that work is still scheduled to start in a matter of weeks.

Just weeks ago, Mike Penning, the former roads minister responsible for signing off Britain’s smart motorways, called for a halt to the rollout of further schemes of this type. He accused Highways England of killing motorists by “casually ignoring commitments” on the systems fundamental to the safe operation of these roads.

In a subsequent statement Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps promised that Smart Motorways would be put on hold pending a full safety review, but at the event last Friday, representatives of Highways England were absolutely clear that work on the A1(M) between junctions 6 and 8 is still scheduled to start in March.

Cllr Malcolm Cowan commented: “This makes a mockery of Grant Shapps’ announcement last week of a moratorium on any new ‘smart’ motorways until the outcome of a review. Aside from our  concerns about the safety of ‘All Lane Running’ with no hard shoulder,  I would also like to see consideration given to a limited widening from J6 northwards, including a new hard shoulder, which would be cheaper and safer, and in my view would significantly reduce the current bottleneck.”

“The LibDems are concerned that the safety concerns raised in the recent Panorama programme, and by the all-party group of MP’s, are fully assessed,” Cllr Tamsin Jackson-Mynott added. “I was told that key data such as the comparison of death rates on smart and non-smart motorways has yet to be gathered.”

Cllr Nigel Quinton added: “When I asked about the impact on ambulance journeys to the Lister in the rush hour, which at present have the option of using the hard shoulder if the road is grid-locked, I was told that they had yet to even talk to the Ambulance Service. How can they possibly complete the assessment before March?

“We will be writing again to Mr Shapps to express our concerns, and request again that work is halted until these plans have been properly scrutinised.”

Highways England have now launched a consultation on the introduction of variable speed limits on this stretch of the motorway, but not on the introduction of ‘Smart’ technology. For more information visit the Highways England website and search for A1(M).

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