Thursday, 28 July 2016

Government slammed for £6billion plan to turn hard shoulders into additional lanes on 300 miles of British motorway . . .


Government slammed for £6billion plan to turn hard shoulders into additional lanes on 300 miles of British motorway

MPs say plans are too dangerous and not properly considered
Fears emergency services won;t be able to reach accidents
Scheme criticised as a cut-price way to expand motorway capacity 

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Plans to covert hard shoulders into permanent driving lanes over the next nine years - costing £6billion - to reduce congestion on Britain's busy motorways have been criticised by MPs over safety concerns.

The Government intends to expand the number of motorways using all lanes on 300 miles of road network, which will see hard shoulders being used by motorists travelling at the national speed limit.

But the Transport Select Committee has coined the scheme too 'radical' and said the safety implications would be 'an unacceptable price to pay' to reduce the number of jams on UK roads.

All Lane Running not all right: The Commons Transport Select Committee said plans to turn hard shoulders into driving lanes on 300 miles of British motorways is an unsafe measure to improve congestion on UK roads

MPs on the Commons Transport Select Committee issued their verdict on the scheme called 'All lane running' on Thursday, concluding that that the plans are too dangerous and not properly considered.

Different to the 'smart motorway' system also currently in force, the all-lane scheme wouldn't just use the hard shoulder at peak times - instead it would eradicate the emergency lane altogether along 300 miles of motorways up and down the country.

The first of these all lane driving motorway was introduced on eight miles of the M25 between junctions 23 and 25 in 2014 in response to forecasts of a 60 per cent increase in traffic of British motorways by 2040. 

But MPs on the committee said the plans are not an 'incremental change' or a logical extension of smart motorway scheme, where hard shoulders were used during rush-hour congestion only.

Chair of the Transport Select Committee, 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.'

Critics have accused the plan as being a way of expanding motorway capacity at a low cost. 

The Government intends to go ahead with the All Lane Running scheme over the next nine years, which would cost £6billion to implement 

Ellman added that the Government now needs to prove that the 30 all-lane motorways will not make the roads any less safe than they were when they had a hard shoulder.

And while she backed the existing smart motorway scheme that has proved to be a success on the M42 since 2006, she voiced the committees concerns of a decline in standards of similar systems introduced since. 

'The Committee heard significant concerns about the scarcity, size and misuse of emergency refuge areas,' she continued.

'We also heard about worryingly high levels of non-compliance with Red X signals. Levels of public awareness and confidence about using these motorway schemes are unacceptably low.

'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.'

Experts have warned that the use of the hard shoulder by the general public as a driving lane would prevent emergency services from responding as quickly as possible to incidents 

Both the AA and RAC have called for the plans to be scrapped after the DfT said there were 592 incidents involving recovery vehicles on the sections of motorway using All Lane Running last year

The committee's verdict has attracted the backing of the RAC, which has been vocal in opposing the plans since they were first introduced in April two years ago. 

RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: 'Whilst supporting smart motorways as a cost-effective and relatively rapid way of increasing motorway capacity, the RAC has repeatedly expressed concerns about the latest design which turns the hard shoulder on motorways into a permanent running lane.


Both the AA and the RAC have conducted their own surveys on 'all lane running' motorways since 2015, with many drivers saying they'd be concerned about where to stop if their car broke down.

The RAC conducted a survey of its members, and found that only 28 per cent of those who have broken down on All Lane Running sections of motorway could see an emergency refuge area to pull into. 

The AA also conducted a survey of almost 20,000 of its members, finding that 41 per cent would stop as safely as possible as soon as they could, trying to move to the nearside, if they broke down on a section of all lane running motorway.

There were also fears that stricken vehicles could then pose a further risk for the recovery services. 

In a written answer to a parliamentary question, the Department for Transport confirmed that there were 592 incidents involving recovery on the sections of motorway using All Lane Running in 2015.

This was the highest number of incidents involving recovery since Highways England took on Traffic Officer duties in 2007.

'The safety of motorists must come first and therefore new designs need to be trialled for sufficiently long to demonstrate their safety before they are introduced more widely.'

Edmund King, the AA president, added: 'Breaking down on a motorway in a live running lane is every driver's worst fear.

'Right from the outset the AA raised substantive safety concerns, also voiced by our members, over the dangers of breaking down on a motorway without a hard shoulder or with an inadequate number and size of lay-bys.

'Whilst we need to increase capacity and reduce congestion we must ensure that we are not cutting corners which compromise safety just to reduce costs.'

In response to the outcry for the plans to be scrapped, a Department for Transport spokesman said: 'All Lane Running roads are designed to be as safe as ordinary motorways.

'In the two All Lane Running sections on the M25, accidents were down 17 per cent and casualty rates fell by 21 per cent in the first year.

'As the committee recognise, the busiest journey times have almost halved, and overall journey times are more reliable and predictable than before.

'We will be considering all the Transport Select Committee's findings carefully and responding shortly.'

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