Written evidence submitted by Mr Christopher James Boswell Puttrell (RSM0103)

 

I am a Civil Engineer with 15 years experience in Road Construction, I am a member of the institute of civil engineers and Institute of Highways & Transport. I have a BSc in Civil Engineering and a MSc in Environmental Engineering and Project Management. I have been involved with the construction of new motorways and smart motorways. My experience is based upon being the Traffic Management Manager for the contractor with responsibility for traffic management during the roadworks and commissioning and opening of schemes for the construction of the M62 J25 to J30 & M1 J39 to J42 Smart Motorway (SM) schemes. I was also the TM manage on the A1 Dishforth to Leeming and Leeming to Barton improvement scheme – construction of full 3 lane motorway and hardshoulder. During the construction I worked alongside Highways England, the Police and other stakeholders listening to concerns during the construction and with regards to opening. I am making this submission due my unique position having been responsible for construction for smart motorway scheme and also being an end user.

 

the benefits of smart motorways, for instance to reduce congestion on busy sections of motorway, and how necessary they are;

There are clear benefits of smart motorway scheme with the quick delivery of additional lane capacity. This was clear evidence on both the M62 J25 to J30 & M1 J39 to J42 SM schemes where prior to the roadworks and during the roadwork, there was heavy traffic at peak time with queuing and congestion. When the roadwork scheme was removed the congestion was reduced massively (I remember driving down the M1 during the weeks after and wondering where all the traffic had gone). I appreciate that over time with traffic grown this congestion has return, particularly on the M62. The construction of the smart motorway schemes also allowed additional safety schemes to be undertake with the works and vital maintenance e.g. construction of central reserve concrete barriers, bridge waterproofing and full resurfacing of the carriageways. The necessity of smart motorway was quick win for extremely heavily congested parts of the networks or where additional lane take / traditional widening was not possible. 

 

the safety of smart motorways, the adequacy of safety measures in place and how safety could be improved;

In regard to safety there are a number of comparisons to be made:

 

 

 

whether All Lane Running is the most suitable type of smart motorway to roll out or if there are better alternatives;

I believe that smart motorway scheme are appropriate where traditional widening is not possible, particularly in build up areas, where junctions are relatively close together. I believe that traditional widening should be used in rural areas (the A1 Dishforth to Barton is a great example as this massively improved the standard from a two lane road with no hardshoulder, to 3 lanes and a hardshoulder) if smart motorways are to be used on motorways in rural areas, with long distances between junction (M1 28 to J30 or M1 J19 to J16), then there should be far more ERA and more regular message signs, ideally full span gantries.

 

public confidence in using smart motorways and how this could be improved; • the impact of smart motorways on the usage and safety of other roads in the strategic road network;

In terms of public confidence - we are expecting drivers to understand all the new technology that comes with a smart motorways scheme, to which they have had little to no education (certainly not mandatory education as part of their driving test) and yet we are providing new signs and instructions to follow on our highest speed roads. There has been to much emphasis that smart motorway are safer than traditional motorway, when they are not, they are really the same in terms of safety (apart from the great advantage of concrete central reserve which is a massive safety improvement preventing crossover accident), the message should have focused on the congestion element, which they improve journey time reliability massively. Also, the fact that they are fare safer that the majority of highspeed A roads which have no hardshoulder, message signs, cctv, vehicle stop detection.

I believe the driving test need up dating to include motorway driving and how to drive and understand smart motorway signage. We forget that the 100 000 to 200 000 drivers that drive through the smart motorway schemes, are responsible for driving safely, ensuring their vehicle is fit to drive (minimising the chance of a live lane breakdown) and driving appropriately to the condition, and that is far easier to blame the static infrastructure / design, rather than the human factor.

 

the effectiveness of Highways England’s delivery of the smart motorways programme, the impact of construction works, and the costs of implementation.

The effectiveness of the Smart Motorway programme in Yorkshire, certainly provided much needed traffic relief and even though the roadworks took multiple years, the advantage was the volume of upgraded works achieved – new pavement, additional lane capacity, new signs and gantries, concrete barriers. During the works, their need to be a reminder to the public, that the congestion already existed, otherwise there wouldn’t have been a case for a smart motorway scheme in the first instance. I believe much cost cutting has been undertaken in revised design (at the cost of ERA and gantries) to cover more of the network, rather than providing quality schemes over a shorter length) – and also which would mean shorter roadwork lengths.

 

April 2021