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Concerns raised over smart motorway safety

Evidence on the safety of smart motorways is being gathered after concerns were raised in the House of Commons.

In recent years Highways England has been rolling out the motorways, which use technology to manage traffic, and is in the middle of an £850million scheme to convert junctions 3-12 of the M4, which pass Maidenhead, in to a smart motorway.

On Thursday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps addressed MPs in the House of Commons, where he said ‘we know that people are dying on smart motorways’.

He added: “We also know that 70 or 80 people a year die on full motorways.

“I want all the facts and I want recommendations that could be put in place to ensure that all our motorways are as safe as they possibly can be.

“I will get this done in a matter of weeks.”

His comments came a day after the Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan told the Commons’ Transport Select Committee it is unlikely to be building any more ‘dynamic’ smart motorways.

He said this is because they are ‘too complicated for people to use’.

The dynamic type is where the hard shoulder is selectively opened depending on traffic volumes.

The ongoing M4 works are for the all lane running type – where the hard shoulder is removed and converted to a fourth lane.

Following Mr Shapps’ comments, the Royal Borough leader Cllr Andrew Johnson (Con, Hurley and Walthams) tweeted: “The fact that four former transport ministers have stated they hold serious concerns over the smart motorways programme is deeply worrying given the current M4 works in [the Royal Borough].

“Clear that [the Department for Transport] needs to conduct its review swiftly and appraise all interested parties ASAP.”

A Highways England spokeswoman said: “The Transport Secretary has asked the Department for Transport to carry out, at pace, an evidence stock-take to gather the facts about smart motorway safety.

“We are committed to safety and are supporting the Department in its work on this.”

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