Written evidence submitted by Michael Rawson (RSM0033)
I am a retired Metropolitan Police Traffic Patrol (Roads Policing) Sergeant with thirty years’ experience of policing traffic, with considerable practical experience of motorways.
I have campaigned against All Lane Running Smart Motorways for seven years.
(1) Brief History of Motorways
(2) The dangers of ALL LANE RUNNING Motorways
(3) Reliance upon technology
(4) Duty of Care
(1) Brief History of Motorways
Britain’s first motorway, the M1 between London and Birmingham, was opened in 1959 and was unique in road design and construction.
The motorway was designed and intended for the exclusive use of motor vehicles and the high speed road had no roundabouts, no traffic signals, no cycles, no farm vehicles, no pedestrians and it was constructed with a central reservation to prevent ‘cross over’ accidents and ‘head-on’ collisions caused by injudicious overtaking.
Joining and leaving the motorway via ‘on’ and ‘off’ slip roads, an entirely new junction concept, was a much safer manoeuvre than at conventional junctions.
Those tasked with designing the motorway immediately realised the absence of so many physical hazards meant the greatest danger facing drivers was a STATIONARY vehicle in a live lane carrying high speed traffic.
To address this vital safety issue the M1 Motorway, and all subsequent motorways, were constructed with Emergency Hard Shoulders, a tarmacked strip of land adjacent to the nearside lane.
Emergency Hard Shoulders ensure the safest possible environment for those who breakdown because they are immediately accessible along the entire length of the motorway.
This is why drivers rarely experience stationary vehicles in live lanes of conventional motorways, although it does occur on rare occasions.
Emergency Hard Shoulders allow prompt attendance of first responders to serious accidents allowing paramedics to administer life-saving drugs and Fire & Rescue personnel to extricate those trapped in severely damaged vehicles.
The absence of an Emergency Hard Shoulder hampers such progress.
Emergency Hard Shoulders provide police officers the opportunity to relocate accident damaged vehicles from the carriageway allowing the speedy return to normal operation reducing delay and damage to the environment caused by queuing traffic.
It should be noted – a vehicle on an emergency hard shoulder rarely affects the speed or flow of vehicles on the motorway and only in exceptional cases, such as a slipped load on a heavy goods vehicle or a fuel spillage, will the closure of a lane be necessary for safety reasons.
(2) The dangers of ALL LANE RUNNING MOTORWAYS
ALL LANE RUNNING (ALR) motorways are not, ‘As safe as or safer than conventional motorways’ as claimed by Highways England and the Secretary of State for Transport.
A STOPPED vehicle, for whatever reason, is a real and present danger on a live lane. It is a serious obstruction and for those in the vehicle, or leaving it to reach safety on the other side of the barrier, their survival is entirely dependent upon every approaching driver seeing, reacting and avoiding the obstruction.
The failure of just one driver to react and avoid a stationary vehicle in a live lane can, and has, ended in serious injury and death.
The following frightening statistic illustrates the dangers of ALR motorways. On one stretch of the M25 between 2009 and 2014 there were 72 near misses.
In the five years from 2014 (when ALR was introduced and Emergency Hard Shoulders abolished) there were 1485 near misses.
Anyone who breaks down on a live lane of an ALR motorway is in mortal danger but there are no statistics to illustrate the terrifying experiences of those who, for whatever reason, find themselves stopped on a live lane.
However, the enormous number of letters published in newspapers and, the many callers to radio stations, can leave nobody in doubt of the frightening experiences of those who have found themselves in such a situation.
If it is terrifying for abled bodied people, imagine what it is like for those who are disabled and struggle to leave their vehicle with their wheel chair or for those with young children, strapped in rear seats, who must prepare buggies before removing their children!
The number of deaths involving STOPPED vehicles on a live lane is testimony to the dangers and it should be noted, on average each day, about 26 vehicles break down on ALR motorways, a staggering 10,000 vehicles every year.
Highways England claims a moderate decrease in journey times on ALR Motorways is justification for the flawed policy.
This claim must be balanced by the regular long delays caused by a broken down vehicle in a live lane due to the absence of an Emergency Hard Shoulder.
On the northern section of the M25 during peak periods a broken down vehicle on a live lane is a regular occurrence and tailbacks in excess of six miles are common place.
The essential closure of a lane for safety reasons quickly results in queuing traffic causing an increase in pollution levels, missed appointments, and people late for work, all of which has a detrimental effect upon the economy and the environment.
Drivers with Sat Navs leave the motorway seeking alternative routes and local roads quickly become gridlocked.
Highways England is disingenuous when it claims ALR Motorways only bring benefits – they increase danger and regularly increase journey times.
(3) Reliance upon technology
Whilst improvements in technology are helpful, for example variable speed limits to control traffic flow at busy times, total reliance upon such technology for safety is irresponsible because it does not take into account human behaviour which ranges from poor concentration to deliberate dangerous driving.
Highways England claims Stopped Vehicle Detection (SVD) will prevent collisions on ALR motorways but, whilst such technology will help, there will always be a delay in displaying the information of an obstruction in a lane used by high speed traffic.
When a vehicle stops in the path of traffic, SVD equipment sends a message to the previous gantry and a RED X is displayed above the obstructed lane. A ‘Lane Divert’ sign is also displayed and the speed limit reduced for safety reasons.
However, many drivers will have passed beneath the gantry BEFORE any of these messages are displayed.
These drivers are blissfully unaware of the dangers in front of them.
The greater the time delay in displaying the messages and the greater the distance between gantries means a greater number of drivers will be unaware of the obstruction ahead, thereby increasing the risk of an accident.
We know a percentage of drivers either deliberately ignore the mandatory directions (to leave the Closed Lane indicated by a RED X) or simply don’t comply because of inattention to their driving.
Every failure to comply with directions places the occupants of the stopped vehicle in mortal danger and the risk of a collision is very high, either a collision with the stopped vehicle or with other moving vehicles when a sudden lane change takes place at high speed.
Highways England’s eighteen point plan to improve safety on ALR motorways includes improving signage to inform drivers of the distance to the next Emergency Refuge Area (ERA).
The information DOES NOT include instructions on how to reach the Emergency Refuge Area in a vehicle which is broken down ie cannot be driven for whatever reason.
No information is included because it is a simple fact a broken down (disabled / will not start) vehicle CANNOT be driven to an ERA and will remain a dangerous obstruction on the carriageway.
For those able to ‘limp’ their vehicle to an ERA there is no information as to what to do if the ERA is occupied.
(4) Duty of Care
The government and Highways England, the company it owns, have a Duty of Care to those who use Britain’s Motorways. That duty requires them to provide the safest possible environment and ALL LANE RUNNING MOTORWAYS breach that duty.
The public perception, for good reason, is ALR is unsafe and that safety has been sacrificed in order to save money.
Recent pronouncements by three coroners hold Highways England responsible, or partially responsible, for deaths on ALR motorways and the Doncaster Coroner has recommended prosecution for the serious offence of Corporate Manslaughter.
Obtaining a conviction for Corporate Manslaughter requires two elements of proof:
1. The organisation bears a high degree of culpability.
2. Death resulted from the organisations failings.
1. Highways England is solely responsible for the creation of All Lane Running Smart Motorways and the company implemented the policy fully aware of the dangers associated with stationary vehicles in live lanes used by fast moving traffic.
2. Highways England, when implementing this policy, failed to ensure the safety of those lawfully using the motorway.
Highways England FAILED IN ITS DUTY OF CARE when it created an unsafe environment.
The only solution to delivering the safest motorway environment is the return of Emergency Hard Shoulders.
Highways England claim Emergency Hard Shoulders are dangerous and account for 8% of motorway deaths
These concerns can easily be addressed and the number of illegal stops on Emergency Hard Shoulders almost eliminated if the following design changes are made to Emergency Hard Shoulders.
Emergency Hard Shoulders must be restored between bridges thereby avoiding costly conversion of motorway bridges.
(The Northwest section of the M25 London Orbital Motorway, between J21 (M1) and J16 (M40), has four lanes & Emergency Hard Shoulders between bridges).
The Hard Shoulder to be tarmacked in RED asphalt (to clearly indicate to drivers IT IS NOT A TRAFFIC LANE)
Large white lettering ‘NO STOPPING - EMERGENCY USE ONLY’ painted on the RED surface every 100 yards (similar to the manner in which speed limits are painted on road surfaces).
Clear signs to be displayed every four hundred yards stating, ‘HARD SHOULDER FOR EMERGENCY USE ONLY – PENALTY FOR IMPROPER USE £1000 & 3 PENALTY POINTS’.
It is suggested the ‘New Look’ Emergency Hard Shoulders be included on all UK motorways to deter their improper use and for uniformity across the country.
The cost of carrying out the restoration of EHSs, in the manner suggested, to greatly improve safety can be met by the cancellation of the planned conversion of conventional motorways to ALL LANE RUNNING.
The claim, restoring Emergency Hard Shoulders will damage the Green Belt, is not only ridiculous but disingenuous. The narrow strip of land next to motorways has no practical use.
Members of the Transport Committee will be mindful that in 2016 their predecessors held their ALL LANE RUNNING INQUIRY.
In its Report the committee wrote, ‘We recommend an immediate halt to the roll out of All Lane Running’. (Paragraph 18). The Report added the roll out should stop until further evidence becomes available.
Sadly, the tragic and completely unnecessary deaths, which have occurred since the publication of the Committee’s Report, provide all the evidence needed to prove beyond any doubt All Lane Running is a dangerous policy which places those, whose vehicle becomes stationary, in imminent danger of injury and death.
The committee will note that, within three months of the publication of the Report, the government announced a thirty mile section of the M4 Motorway from Heathrow to the Thames Valley would be converted to All Lane Running.
Conversion work is currently underway with a total disregard for the committee’s recommendation and, even more importantly, total disregard for the safety of those who will use this dangerous stretch of ALR motorway.
The committee will receive a great deal of evidence and emphasis will no doubt stress the importance of an increase in the number of Emergency Refuge Areas.
ERAs can never, no matter how short the distance between them, provide the level of safety required on Britain’s Motorway Network.
Increasing the number of ERAs is NOT the solution and it is hoped the committee will consider this fact very carefully.
The one unarguable fact about All Lane Running Motorways is a stationary vehicle is a dangerous obstruction THE MOMENT IT STOPS on a live lane.
There is no time lapse, the danger is immediate and it remains a danger until it is removed.
It is time for the phrase ‘All Lane Running’ to be confined to history and It is hoped the committee’s Report will make that abundantly clear to the government, The Department for Transport & Highways England.
Highways England’s ALL LANE RUNNING policy makes the fundamental mistake of confusing theory with reality.
As a table top exercise, using computers, slide rules and algorithms the money saving scheme was an undoubted success.
But, as we know, when put into practice in the real world occupied by human beings with all of their faults, the scheme is a mitigated disaster for all of the reasons set out in this evidence.
With respect, the only recommendation for the committee to make is, ‘Emergency Hard Shoulders MUST be restored to Britain’s motorways’.
Anything less is totally unacceptable and will not allay the fears of those using Britain’s motorways.
How many more deaths does the government need to be convinced of the dangers of All Lane Running Motorways and to abandon the policy once and for all?