The official strategy for reducing casualties on smart motorways began to unravel yesterday as it emerged a key safety pledge may not be delivered until 2030 – five years later than first thought.
Officials were forced to admit that 150 extra emergency laybys, which prevent drivers being marooned in live traffic, will not reduce their average space apart to 0.75 miles.
Achieving this is seen as crucial by the Government and safety campaigners, with laybys currently up to 1.5 miles apart.
Laybys on current smart motorways are up to 1.5 miles apart, increasing the level of danger for motorists stranded on a live traffic lane
About 40 per cent of breakdowns on smart motorways with the hard shoulder permanently removed happen in a live lane due to a lack of laybys to pull into
About 40 per cent of breakdowns on smart motorways with the hard shoulder permanently removed happen in a live lane due to a lack of laybys to pull into. Yesterday it emerged another 250 emergency refuges – 400 in total – will be needed to reach the 0.75-mile target.
But ministers do not plan to install these – if at all – until the end of 2030 when the next five-year road strategy ends. This is yet to be agreed. It was originally thought the target would be met by 2025. It came as a former transport minister and MPs lined up to condemn National Highways bosses during two emotionally-charged debates in Parliament.
Huw Merriman, chairman of the Commons transport committee, said shorter spacing was crucial because it can take a driver 75 seconds to drift to an emergency layby if travelling at 60mph. It could drop to 30 seconds under the 0.75-mile target.
Tory MP Chris Loder branded it a ‘national disgrace’ that the motorways were opened without the right life-saving measures installed. MPs also shared harrowing stories about constituents killed or marooned in live traffic on the roads.
Yesterday it emerged another 250 emergency refuges – 400 in total – will be needed to reach the 0.75-mile target
Tory former roads minister John Hayes said: ‘It’s critically important that on all-lane-running motorways these refuges are regularly available so people can get off the road when they need to without delay.’
The Government launched an action plan on Wednesday to address the deadly safety flaws. It came after a report by the transport committee called for ministers to take action.
In a victory for the Daily Mail, which has campaigned for better smart motorway safety, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced £390million for the 150 extra emergency laybys and halted 120 miles of schemes until at least spring 2024 to gather more safety data.
However, six schemes totalling 100 miles will not be paused and will be opened. This is because these are more than 50 per cent complete and it was deemed safer to finish them. Transport minister Trudy Harrison told MPs yesterday that fatality rates on smart roads were lower than on conventional motorways.
The Department for Transport confirmed the 0.75 mile target may not be hit until 2030 and that up to 250 extra laybys would be ‘considered’ after 2025.