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MPs safety warning on hard shoulder use

NCE stock roads

A committee of MPs has warned the Government that motorway hard shoulders should not be used as permanent driving lanes.

The Transport Select Committee today said permanent ‘all lane running’ schemes were too radical a change while there are still major safety concerns about them. At the moment, there are smart motorway schemes in place where the hard shoulder is used as a live lane of traffic at peak times or when there’s congestion. As a permanent step, the Government sees it as a way of increasing motorway capacity without construction work to widen them.

Transport Select Committee chair Louise Ellman MP said: “The permanent removal of the hard shoulder is a dramatic change. All kinds of drivers, including the emergency services, are genuinely concerned about the risk this presents.

“It is undeniable that we need to find ways of dealing with traffic growth on the strategic network. But All Lane Running does not appear to us to be the safe, incremental change the Department wants us to think it is. While smart motorways have existed for years, this is fundamentally different. Government needs to demonstrate that all lane running schemes do not make the road any less safe that the traditional motorway with a hard shoulder.”

According to the Committee, plans are in place to permanently convert the hard shoulder into a running lane on around 300 miles of motorway. Highways England has a programme of 30 all lane running schemes worth around £6bn over the next nine years.

Ellman said the Committee was particularly concerned about the available of emergency refuge areas and public compliance with Red X signals.

She said: “Government needs to demonstrate considerable improvement in this area, including more emergency refuge areas, driver education and enforcement, before the Committee will endorse the extension of a scheme which risks putting motorists in harm’s way.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • I'd have more confidence in these schemes if the variable message boards / speed limits related more closely to what seemed to be happening - it's not unusual to get warnings on one sign followed by nothing on subsequent signs or on the carriageway. Equally it's hard not to conclude that some people in the control room aren't just playing with the settings - around Birmingham at night in low flow it's not unknown to get 60, then 50, then 40, then national speed limit on successive gantries for no apparent reason. I'm sure folk in charge will deny all this, pleading superior intelligence (in all its manifestations) but I suspect I'm not alone in my experiences.

    Equally, what is the point of saying 'Queue ahead' when approaching a three-way split such as the M62/M6 junction. On which route? If it's M6 north it doesn't affect me, if it's M6 south or M62 east I have a choice and can take the other route. But not if I don't know which one has the queue.

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