Written evidence submitted by SURVIVE (RSM0093)
This memorandum to the Select Committee Inquiry is submitted on behalf of SURVIVE, details of which can be found on its website: www.survivegroup.org.
SURVIVE was established by the three largest providers of roadside recovery (AA, RAC and Green Flag) to develop best practice for the recovery industry and to establish a standard which the industry would be expected to meet in order to be contracted to undertake recovery work. It publishes a Best Practice Guide, reviewed and updated regularly, and oversees the industry standard known as PAS43. It is funded by the three main recovery bodies and acts as a partnership bringing together the recovery industry, Highways England (HE) and the police service to ensure the safe recovery of road users.
SURVIVE does not take a view for or against the roll-out of smart motorways. It recognises that HE has responsibility for the strategic road network and for ensuring that this operates safely, efficiently and effectively. It has worked with HE to ensure that emergency areas on the smart motorway network are appropriately spaced and signed. It encouraged HE to undertake practical trials of these areas to ensure that all types of recovery could be undertaken without exposing either recovery operators and those being rescued to additional risk.
The particular concerns of SURVIVE focus on the impact of breakdown in a live lane on a smart motorway. HE will need to ensure that monitoring of the network is robust enough to identify any such events, to close live lanes as quickly as possible and to ensure that any vehicles are moved to a safe position. It also needs to ensure that the recovery operator is able to effect a safe rescue if need arise.
The recent advertising campaign across media channels encouraging drivers to slow down and move over to the left is a welcome step forward, informing motorists of Smart Motorway signage and rules and the appropriate behaviours in such circumstances. However, we remain concerned about the distances between refuge areas on the network. SURVIVE would encourage Highways England to maintain the momentum behind the installation of cameras and detection equipment to ensure that breakdowns are acted upon swiftly to reduce risk, and to keep the issue of refuge area spacing under regular review.
SURVIVE is also aware of a number of occasions when Highways England has not been able to attend incidents on the smart motorway network. While this is not an issue of major concern at the current time, it is important that HE is able to maintain sufficient resource to provide support when it is required by operators.
SURVIVE would therefore urge the Committee to ensure that strong links are maintained by HE with the recovery industry to identify and promote best practice to ensure that both road users and industry are not put at risk by further expansion of the smart motorway network.