Transport Committee expresses safety concerns over scrapping of hard shoulder plans
30 September 2016
Author: Daniel Puddicombe
The Transport Committee has blasted the Department for Transport after ministers announced plans to covert 300 miles of hard shoulders into running lanes.
According to the DfT, traffic levels on strategic roads are set to increase by up to 60% by 2040. The Government said smart motorways - which use overhead dot-matrix signs to indicate open lanes and speed limits - are a way of increasing capacity without having to widen the motorways.
The committee previously warned that Government should not proceed with all-lane running schemes due to what it called "major safety concerns".
It said that turning the hard shoulder into a running lane is a "radical challenge to the nature of motorways" and that it will create a "real challenge for motorists."
"The Department for Transport is blatantly ignoring the safety concerns set out in our report. We had barely received the response to our report before the Government endorsed an all lane running scheme on the M4," said Louise Ellman, chair of the Transport Committee. "We take real issue with the Government's assertion that all lane running schemes on motorways are no different to other types of roads without hard shoulders. Motorways are a different class of road and drivers have different expectations when using them."
The RAC echoed the views of the Transport Committee: "The flat refusal of the Government to listen to genuine voices of concern from those who work on motorways every day and the considered conclusion of the Transport Committee is very worrying. The safety case for all lane running is not yet proven and as a result we fear that it won't be long before there is a major tragedy that will make the Government think again," said RAC chief engineer, David Bizley. "We also believe the Government is misguided to compare the removal of the hard shoulder to that of an A-road. Motorways are the safest roads on the network, and the hard shoulder and emergency refuge play an important part in this."