Council leader brands M1 smart motorway near Mansfield a ‘death trap’

A council leader has called smart motorways ‘death traps’ as MPs called for a five-year delay on their roll-out.

By Eddie Bisknell
Friday, 5th November 2021, 6:00 am

Coun Barry Lewis, Derbyshire Council leader, said on Twitter hard shoulders needed to be ‘reinstated’ on all smart motorways, instead of merely pausing the roll-out of more roads of this type.

The councillor, vice-chairman of the County Councils Network, said the Department for Transport had ‘got this wrong’.

Coun Lewis said the MPs’ report recommending the pause of the roll-out of all-lane running smart motorways – which do not have a hard shoulder – was ‘welcome’.

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Smart motorways, like the M1 through Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, have seen the hard shoulder converted into a fourth driving lane.

He said: “All-Lane Smart Motorways should be ended and the hard shoulder reinstated. The DfT got this wrong and it’s time they acknowledged it. Simply put, they’re death traps.”

There is a 20-mile section of smart motorway through Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire from Junction 28 at South Normanton to Junction 31 at Aston, Rotherham.

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Coun Barry Lewis, Derbyshire County Council leader.

This week, the Commons’ Transport Select Committee, a collection of MPs, said there was not enough safety and economic data to justify continuing with the plans to increase the number of all-lane running smart motorways and called for a five-year pause to assess their safety.

However, it also said evidence suggests reinstating hard shoulders permanently ‘could put more drivers and passengers at risk of death and serious injury’, because motorway capacity would be reduced.

It said: “If that traffic were diverted on to A-roads, it might result in an extra 25 deaths and 224 serious casualties per year.”

Smart motorways are routes in which there is no hard shoulder for motorists to pull over into if they need to stop.

According to Government figures obtained by Panorama in 2020, 38 people were killed on smart motorways between 2014 and 2019, including Mansfield man Alexandru Murgeanu.

The Commons’ Transport Select Committee said the number of deaths on motorways without a hard shoulder rose from five in 2017 to 15 in 2019.

A DfT spokesman said: “We’re pleased the TSC recognises reinstating the hard shoulder on all-lane running motorways could put more motorists at risk of death and serious injury and we’re right to focus on upgrading their safety.

“We recognise improvements have not always been made as quickly as they could have been, but the Transport Secretary is committed to making Smart Motorways as safe as possible.”

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