Anger at no hard shoulder for stretch of M1 smart motorway where Mansfield man killed

No hard shoulder will be installed on the ‘smart motorway’ stretch of the M1 – despite the number of fatal collisions increasing since it was implemented.

Wednesday, 8th September 2021, 7:05 pm

Now an MP has slammed a government report into accident blackspots on smart motorways, saying it offers the families of people killed on the roads “no solutions”.

The long-awaited report from National Highways, formerly Highways England, found that the number of serious or fatal injury collisions have increased on the South Yorkshire stretch of the M1 – but only one new emergency refuge will be installed on the Derbyshire border.

The report found that from Junction 32, at Brampton-en-le-Morthen, to Junction 35, at Thorpe Hesley, the average numbers of collisions per year have decreased since the smart motorway opened, but the number of ‘serious injury’ collisions per year have increased.

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Jason Mercer, left, and Alexandru Murgeanu died on the M1 smart motorway near Sheffield in June 2019.

The number of fatal collisions have also increased from one in three years to three in three years.

It adds a Rotherham Council scheme to reduce congestion at Junction 33, at Catcliffe, will be ‘kept under review’, and one new emergency refuge will be installed between Woodall services and Junction 31, at Aston, on the Derbyshire–South Yorkshire border.

However, no additional safety refuges will be installed between Junctions 32 and 35 – the stretch of road where Alexandru Murgeanu, from Mansfield, and Rotherham man Jason Mercer were killed in 2019.

Mr Murgeanu, aged 22, and 44-year-old Mr Mercer died when a lorry driven by Prezemyslaw Szuba crashed into their vehicles after they stopped on a stretch of the M1 near Sheffield without a hard shoulder.

Szuba, 40, from Hull, was jailed for 10 months in October 2020 after admitting causing the deaths of Mr Mercer and Mr Murgeanu by careless driving.

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‘Insult’

Sarah Champion, Rotherham MP, called the report an ‘insult’ to the families of those who have lost their lives on the smart motorway network.

She said: “I am appalled National Highways has failed to commit to real safety improvements on this lethal stretch of road.

“Fundamentally, it was the lack of a safe refuge that led to the death of Mr Mercer.

“Despite acknowledging the alarming rise in serious and fatal incidents, none of the measures proposed in the report will address this fatal flaw.

“No additional refuges will be built the hard should will not be returned, and motorists will continue to run huge risks should they break down or be forced to stop.

“The families of victims of these blackspots, including Jason’s widow, Claire, have been expectantly waiting for 18 months for the findings of this report.

“The result is an insult, offering no real answers and no solutions.

“It is high time the Department for Transport listened to bereaved families, campaigners, motorists’ organisations and Members from across the House and abandoned these dangerous, ill thought-out schemes, instead, they seem ideologically intent to roll them out, regardless of the known risks they pose.”

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