Written evidence submitted by Mr Michael Carrivick (RSM0019)
The roll-out and safety of smart motorways
The evidence below is offered to your Committee for its consideration.
By way of introduction, and as a user of such motorways like the M3 and M4, I am writing because of my surprise and concerns at the low level of safety that exists now compared to that before the conversion to so-called ‘Smart’ status.
I have no links in any respect to the well-publicised and distressing cases that have recently been aired elsewhere in the UK.
- Pre-conversion to ‘smart’ status, the hard-shoulder provided a hard shoulder refuge, consistently available for breakdowns and other stoppages, plus an access lane for emergency services at their times of need.
To withdraw such access to emergency sanctuary, and provide minimal safety refuges as a substitute, must be seen as a deliberate down-grading of safety.
- The actual refuges that are provided are not large and, if already occupied by another vehicle, would not be available to anybody else seeking its use.
- The entry and exits to refuges are minimal in size and angle of approach. They can easily be missed at somebody’s peril. I attach a picture from the website of Roads.org.uk that illustrate this.
- The ease of use of refuges has to be assessed in the context of inclement weather (dark, stormy and wet), and not in bright open daylight. It will be found that they are a lot easier to miss.
- In the same vein, it needs to be understood that users of emergency refuges are not just regular motorway drivers but of all categories (e.g. older drivers, infrequent motorway users, single adults travelling with children etc).
- Many emergencies simply don’t allow for a vehicle to carry on to the next refuge; they will have no option except to stop where they are, in a live lane. Again, bad enough in daylight to discern a situation by drivers of following vehicles; they not only have to brake to prevent a collision, but also move over to another lane. In dark, wet weather, that’s a most unwelcome situation.
However, the parties to designing and authorising ‘smart’ motorways seem to have ignored the realities of motorway life in order to save money.
It’s beyond belief that billions of pounds are being spent on ‘smart’ motorways that, when finished, are so sub-standard in respect of safety for road users. That’s a huge failure.
I thank the Committee for considering these comments. They are generated by the appalling situation that now exists on smart motorways, and the further degradation of safety that occurs once inclement weather or nightfall arrives.