New smart motorway will cost taxpayers £1.2billion but roads do not follow safety advice

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Smart motorway schemes will continue to be built up to 2023 and with seven contracts between the Department for Transport and building suppliers. But in a major safety risk, some schemes will only fit emergency lay-bys every mile and a half.

This goes against the Department for Transport’s safety guidelines written into their evidence stocktake released in March which committed to having lay-bys at least every mile.

DfT officials said they were committed to a “maximum spacing of one mile apart” and would even consider installing these every 0,75 miles were possibly feasible.

The DFT said they would also consider a national programme of “retrofitting additional emergency areas”.

But it is clear that safety guidelines will be ignored to deliver the new roads despite police officers previously attacking the roads as “death traps”.

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy at the AA said the proposals were “frustrating” and urged there was still time to “redesign the plans”.

“From the outset, we have argued that smart motorways should be the safest roads possible.

“Our position was clear that emergency refuge areas needed to be closer than the old standard of every 1.5 miles and are pleased that several new schemes will be built with emergency areas spaced every 0.75 miles apart.

“However, we are disappointed that the M3 scheme between Winchester and Eastleigh will be constructed on the old standard.

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“This is even more frustrating especially as no spades have been put in the ground, so there is still time to redesign the plans.

“During evidence to the Transport Select Committee, Highways England conceded that Dynamic Hard Shoulder schemes were too confusing and these will now be changed to all lane running motorways.

“Plenty of publicity will be needed once the conversion is complete to avoid further misunderstandings.”

It is expected that dynamic hard shoulder schemes will be brought to an end following the DfT advice.

These roads will be converted into a permanent lane for traffic after experts warned the temporary schemes caused “confusion”.

A switch to a permanent traffic lane or an all-lane running road was proposed in March’s review.

News of the seven new smart motorway roads was revealed back in August as part of a £27billion investment across the country’s roads.

Smart motorway upgrades will now be installed across popular stretches of roads such as the M6, M62, M2 and M3.

A DfT spokesperson said: “Due to his concerns the Transport Secretary commissioned an evidence stocktake and paused schemes while awaiting its conclusion.

“He subsequently tasked Highways England with delivering an 18-point action plan which focuses on making the schemes less confusing, adding additional stopped vehicle detection technology and traffic officer patrols, and making emergency areas more visible with better and more frequent signage.

“We will ensure Highways England delivers this to the agreed timescales set out in the plan.”

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