Written evidence submitted by:
Mrs Sally Jacobs, Saima Aktar, Claire Mercer, Samantha Cockerill, and all families (RSM0045)
We have all lost loved ones on motorways so know well the dangers and devastation of these busy, but essential roads. Our lives were ripped apart and ruined, we were meant to grow old together. But we’ve been cheated of that by a system rolled out on the cheap and quiet which, despite being reviewed many, many times, is still allowed operate.
Why remove the hard shoulder
When the M1 motorway was opened in 1959 it was deemed necessary to have a hard shoulder to provide a refuge for drivers in an emergency and to enable access for emergency vehicles. We fail to understand why sixty plus years later and with a vast increase in traffic this basic safety measure has been removed. The dangers are known. People are being killed unnecessarily.
Absence of Technology
The technology that should account for the “smart” aspect of these motorways, especially SVD, is still either not working properly or in use.
At the very minimum, this technology should have been perfected first and installed alongside the roll out of smart motorways. Instead, it was purposefully inferred in the promotion of smart motorways that the technology would be there, when it was known it wouldn’t be. This means the little information shared publicly about smart motorways was misleading. If they were a product in a shop, the retailer would be prosecuted under the Trades Description Act.
The removal of the hard shoulder was presented as being offset by
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in 2020, “Since 1995 with the first Controlled Motorway, smart motorways have been progressively introduced to the SRN. The first DHS motorway opened in 2006 and the first major ALR motorways in 2014. They are an enhancement of the existing motorway network aiming to achieve the benefits of increasing capacity, reducing congestion, and applying technology to manage traffic, while keeping the road as safe as, or safer than, the road it replaced.” (Evidence Stocktake and Action Plan).
Even after the facts were known, he implied that the necessary technology was/is in place and working as it should. How are these roads an “enhancement” when all that’s been done is removing the hard shoulder?
The MIDAS technology doesn’t do what it should. Proof of this are the deaths of Jason Mercer and Alexandru Murgeanu, SVD was not installed and so could not pick them up when they first stopped. Neither did the control room so the live lane they were in was not closed and they were killed. Even when they were dead and a scene of “utter carnage” engulfed all four lanes, closing the entire motorway—in both directions—for hours, MIDAS still did not pick up that there was a problem. The motorway was only closed when members of the public phoned Highways England and the Police.
When South Yorkshire Police were asked why MIDAS did not even work after they were dead, the reply after research, was, “the incident happened between two separate loops on the MIDAS system so it wouldn’t have picked them up.
Basically, they died in the wrong place!
“Go Left”: Emergency Services, Mobility Issue and Break downs
The recent crass and offensive advertising campaign from Highways England over two decades after smart motorways were bought in, does little to educate the user but then how do you educate a broken vehicle into moving to a more convenient spot anyway?
The adverts, literature, and responses from the Department for Transport, Highways England, and Grant Shapps consistently fail to answer how “going left” solves many of the most important issues when dealing with incidents on a smart motorway:
Lack of Information
Smart motorways have technically been in existence since 1995, but the more commonly referred to starting point is 2006. How many people, before March 2021, had ever seen or heard any official information or instruction on how to use these roads that have been in for up to 26 years?
Even the Highway Code has not yet been updated to inform of smart motorway use. The government’s own page on “How to Drive on A Smart Motorway” has now been withdrawn.
How then is the road user meant to know about this fundamental change to England’s motorway network?
Smart Motorways Kill
Smart Motorways Kill is a campaign group comprised of the people named at the top of page one and many others. We are calling for the reinstatement of the hard shoulder on every single motorway. We are bringing a judicial review against Highways England to get the courts to rule on whether to ban smart motorways. Our legal team have been compiling the evidence required for the last year and are now in a position to move forward with this action.
Transport Select Committee Reports and the rising death toll
There have been many Transport Select Committee reports and responses stating clearly concerns about smart motorways and stressing they should not be rolled out until these had been addressed and resolved. Yet the said implementation has gone ahead, with even more corners cut.
Just eight days ago, while four different official committees, government departments and watchdogs were “reviewing” smart motorways yet again, another person were killed because a car had broken down and was blocking a live lane. The vehicles following were unable to stop in time as they were HGV’s so require longer stopping distances. As they swerved to avoid the obstacle, they hit each other. The man that died was not even in the stranded vehicle. He was in one trying to avoid it.
We know that smart motorways do not allow for human error but they also don’t allow for physics.
We need to stop “reviewing”, “inquiring”, “reporting on”, and “planning” actions about the problem that are smart motorways. We need to stop them. At the very least, while all this pen pushing is going on, just turn the first lane off!
Abandonment of 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 that ALR is dangerous and that safety has been sacrificed to save money. Recent pronouncements by three coroners hold Highways England responsible, or partially responsible, for deaths on ALR motorways and the Doncaster Coroner recommended prosecution for the serious offence of Corporate Manslaughter.
Highways England FAILED IN ITS DUTY OF CARE when it created an unsafe environment, and its claim at Nargis Begum’s pre inquest review that it does “not have a duty of care to road users” shows the distain they have for the public and the law.
If the government and Highways England consider it important to save face then call the remedy whatever they like: modifications/actions/scrapping, etc, if needed. Just give the hard shoulder back.