Smart motorway in Northamptonshire branded unsafe by MPs

Highways England construction workers making preparations for the stretch of M1 smart motorway in February 2015
Highways England construction workers making preparations for the stretch of M1 smart motorway in February 2015

Safety campaigners against motorway hard shoulders becoming fourth lanes - such as what happened with the M1 in Northamptonshire - have been backed by MPs.

The all-party group said having no hard shoulder puts motorists and recovery workers at risk and called for the rollout of smart motorways to be halted,

But this has come too late for regular users of the M1 between junctions 16 and 19 in Northamptonshire and Leicestershire.

Highways England opened the stretch as an All Lane Running smart motorway in November 2017.

Tracey Crouch, Conservative MP for Chatham and Aylesford, who sits on the group said: "We need the Government to pause and reflect on whether we're getting this right."

She added that the introduction of ALR smart motorways should be on hold "until we have a better understanding about how we can protect those who have broken down and the recovery workers that come to assist them."

Figures obtained by the RAC show that at the end of 2017 there were 100 miles of ALR motorway in England.

Last year, on these stretches there were 16 crashes across all lanes which caused injury involving stationary vehicles, such as broken-down cars.

Over the same period, there were 29 similar crashes involving vehicles parked up on the hard shoulder for the whole of the rest of the network in England - which includes about 1,800 miles of road.

The Campaign for Safer Roadside Rescue and Recovery (CSRRR) wants the rollout of this ALR scheme to be stopped, and for recovery workers to be able to use red flashing lights rather than orange.

The campaign is being led by Samantha Cockerill, whose partner Steve Godbold, a vehicle recovery worker, was killed in September 2017 when an HGV strayed on to the hard shoulder of the M25.

She calls the new ALR smart motorways "crazy" and says they increase the risk to recovery workers.

Highways England says the technology used on smart motorways makes journeys more reliable and insists they are as safe as traditional motorways.

It says they will continue to make design changes - including introducing systems that detect stationary vehicles.

Highways England also said it was prioritising raising awareness of the need to comply with lane closures and, where practical, reducing the distance between emergency refuge areas to a maximum of one mile.