Smart highway plans scrapped by Tories after dozens killed | UK News

A collage by Rishi Sunak in front of a highway.

The Prime Minister promised to ban them during his leadership bid (Image: REX/Getty)

Rishi Sunak has scrapped plans for new smart motorways in England over safety and cost concerns.

Fourteen planned smart highways – which use technology to control traffic flow and relieve congestion – will be removed from government road plans.

These include 11 that were halted as early as January last year and three that are earmarked for construction, Downing Street said today.

About 10% of the UK motorway network consists of smart motorways.

Highways England, a government agency that operates motorways, upgraded the routes in 2014 to help manage traffic quickly and cheaply.

They also include the use of hard shoulders as walking lanes – which campaigners say has led to traffic fatalities – and variable speed limits.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Adam Vaughan/LNP/Shutterstock (12758925b) A section of the Smart Motorway on the M1 near Wakefield. The rollout of new smart highways has been suspended until at least 2025 for safety reasons. Smart Motorways, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, UK - 13th January 2022

Activists say deaths of at least 79 people may be linked to smart highways (Image: Adam Vaughan/LNP/Shutterstock)

There have been at least 79 smart highway-related deaths, according to campaign group Smart Motorways Kill. According to official figures, 38 people were killed on smart highways between 2014 and 2019.

The Department for Transport today admitted the £1,000,000,000 plan to build smarter motorways is not financially sound and lacks public support.

However, construction of two sections of the smart motorway at junctions six to eight of the M56 and 21a to 26 of the M6 ​​will continue.

While pre-existing smart highways will be preserved, they will now undergo a safety overhaul, including more emergency stops.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “Today’s announcement means no new smart highways will be built, recognizing the lack of public confidence in drivers and cost pressures from inflation.”

During his bid for the leadership, Sunak promised to ban intelligent highways.

“Many people across the country rely on their cars to get to work, take their children to school and go about their daily lives, and I want them to be able to do that with full confidence that the roads they drive on.” drive, be safe,” he said.

A refugee area on the M3 smart motorway near Camberley in Surrey. The highways have no hard shoulder for emergencies and use technology to block lanes. Claire Mercer, the wife of a man who died on a smart highway, has displayed his picture on a giant screen outside a police headquarters as she urged officers to investigate Highways England over his death. Picture date: Tuesday March 2, 2021. PA Photo. Photo credit should read: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

The motorways have no hard shoulder for emergencies and use technology to block lanes (Image: PA)

Road safety campaign groups such as the RAC and AA have long raised concerns about smart highways.

The RAC has warned how “frightening” it is for drivers to stop in live lanes with no hard shoulder for fear of being hit from behind.

Jason Mercer died in 2019 while commuting to work on a section of the M1 near Sheffield.

A truck crashed into the stationary vehicles of Jason and his passenger Alexandru Murgeanu, who had stopped after a “minor maneuver” on a section of highway with no hard shoulder.

Jason’s wife Claire Mercer, who founded the Smart Motorways Kill group, welcomed the government’s ban – but stressed it was a start.

“It’s great, it’s very good news,” she said.

“I am particularly pleased that it has been confirmed that the routes that are in planning and under construction have also been cancelled. I didn’t think they would do that.

So it’s good news, but obviously it’s the existing ones that are killing us. And I won’t settle for more shelters.

“So it’s half the battle, but we still have half the battle ahead of us.”

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Justin Scaccy

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