Written evidence submitted by John Upex, retired Design Engineer (RSM0097)

 

Firstly.

 

In 2004 I was engaged by Webber Associates to draw the Designs for the Refuges on the M42 Trial Smart Motorway (Junctions 3A to 14). Webber Associates, Geotechnical Engineers, had the Contract to produce the requisite Earthworks Designs.

 

A colleague and I drew all the Earthwork designs to provide the Refuge Areas built 'adjacent to' the ex-hard shoulder / new running lane.

 

The 'design concept' was that the 'new flat space' was to be obtained "Within the Existing M-Way Fence-Line (the Way-leave)" and at the minimum production cost possible.

 

Accordingly, the 'New Flat Space' was obtained by (in order of descending preference)

1) Merely 'building out' if the surround was level with the carriageway;

2) Regrading the Embankment / Cutting beyond the 'won' flat area - if that were feasible within the Fenced area;

3) Excavating (into a cutting) / Filling (out from an Embankment) - with the necessary 'Retaining Wall' produced at the lowest cost; these, in reverse order of preference, being;

3a) A Concrete Block wall;

3b) A soil-nail retaining system (in cutting)

3c) A reinforced Earth Wall system (on Embankment)

3d) A sheet-piled wall.

 

To the very best of my knowledge and belief NOT ONE of these Designs impinged on Ground 'out-with' the Existing M-Way (Way-leave) Fence line.

 

I concede that 'some of' the M-way widening which has taken place since the M-ways were first built has intruded into the 'spare space' beyond the (original) Hard-Shoulders, but I view with great scepticism the claim by The Minister Of Transport that "to increase the number of Refuges beyond those already constructed would require the purchase of considerable tracts of New Land at Great Expense".

 

Secondly

 

"In a Former Life" I owned a vehicle body manufacturing company and did deliver many of our vehicles to Customers, Agents & Distributors around the country.

 

These Vehicles (Chassis-cabs) were delivered to us 'fresh from the Factory' (without Pre-Delivery Checks)- and a number of them 'broke down' on the M-ways while I was delivering them; I have had several experiences and spent many hours 'stranded' with a dead vehicle on M-Way Hard Shoulders.

 

For many years I also 'used to drive' around 30,000 miles per annum on our road system.

 

In 'drawing' the M42 Refuges I was sceptical that a vehicle 'would break down conveniently close to a Refuge' - though as the Refuges on M42 were generally 'within sight of each other' I concede that a vehicle breaking down would probably give sufficient warning to enable the driver to 'limp it' to a Refuge within sight.

 

However, there is absolutely no possibility whatever of a driver 'limping a vehicle' the mile / mile and a half (and more) to the next Refuge in the revised Smart Motorway Roll Out - the LESS SO if he is unable to see it "and have something to aim for".

 

It is widely acknowledged that survival after a life-threatening incident (aircraft, ships, motor vehicles and pedestrian) - other than for those killed immediately - is most highly influenced by 'the Hope & Expectation of Being Rescued'.

 

Anyone 'not able to see' a Refuge is at an immediate survival disadvantage because they have no means of protecting themselves; put crudely, if you break down on a live M-way you can simply expect to be involved in a second incident - usually fatal - because there is no realistic HOPE of avoiding it.

 

I submit that whoever reduced the number of Refuges and thus located them out of sight of each other implicitly condemned to a high risk of death anyone having the misfortune to come to rest on the live carriageways.

 

Thirdly

 

It is widely accepted that when a mistake has occurred, the First thing to do is to PREVENT things getting worse and the Second is to UNDO the thing that caused it.

 

It is 'obvious to a blind man or a child of 3' that the 'old' Hard Shoulders can be 'reinstated at no cost whatsoever' by closing them to traffic - using simple Red Crosses on the overhead gantries.

 

And it is also 'obvious' that 'if traffic density requires these 'hard shoulders' to be used as running lanes, then the speed limit on the whole carriageway should be reduced to a speed in which 'a second collision' is SURVIVABLE - probably around 30 mph.

 

I submit that The Minister of Transport and his Public Servants are purely and simply refusing to accept the fact that the 'new design' is (literally) Fatally Flawed for no other reason than refusal to admit their mistake - and that everything that they utter in defence of the new design should be viewed as nothing more than 'justification and excuse' by peopleĀ  without the courage to admit that they are wrong.

 

And were I on a jury trying these people for Corporate Manslaughter or causing death by negligence I would convict.

 

April 2021