'Death trap' smart motorways 'shelved' after safety concerns led to a rethink of controversial plans

6 April 2023, 00:51 | Updated: 6 April 2023, 09:34

The rollout of smart motorways is unlikely to resume it has been claimed
The rollout of smart motorways is unlikely to resume it has been claimed. Picture: Getty

By Chay Quinn

No new 'smart motorways' are set to be built in Britain after safety fears led to the plans being shelved, sources have claimed.

Department for Transport sources told the I newspaper that the plans for the motorways which do not have a hard shoulder are unlikely to be resumed after fears over them causing crashes led to the rollout being paused in early 2022.

Contractors for the £3bn project to rollout the roads which use tech to close lanes said they had been made aware that the scheme is being scaled back.

38 official deaths have been recorded on the newfanlged roads between 2015 and 2019 - with more said to have occurred in the four years since the data was recorded.

Smart motorways do not have a hard shoulder and use technology to detect broken down vehicles
Smart motorways do not have a hard shoulder and use technology to detect broken down vehicles. Picture: Getty

Read More: 'Death trap' smart motorways rollout halted in win for Nick Ferrari campaign

A contractor involved said: “We’re no longer expecting any new smart motorways. Financial pressure on the Government, alongside the unpopularity of the scheme makes it seem untenable.”

Despite the effective shelving of the plans, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak may still yet continue the roll-out.

The PM is said to have the final say on whether to greenlight £900m in new funding for Transport Secretary Mark Harper to make the motorways more safe.

The suspension of the rollout was a campaigning win for LBC presenter Nick Ferrari - who repeatedly called the smart motorways "death traps".

Last year, Nick heard the first-hand accounts of motorists who have been left traumatised by their experiences on smart motorways.

Read more: LBC callers share experience of 'death trap' smart motorways

Nick Ferrari fumes at the ongoing review into smart motorways

Aisha phoned in from Hitchin to tell Nick Ferrari that she broke down on a smart motorway the week before, leaving her "absolutely terrified" while she waited for authorities.

"No hard shoulder just leaves you completely at the mercy of other drivers being vigilant."

She told Nick that "it was horrifying to get over to what we would consider the slow lane", from where she was – the fast lane, on the other side of the motorway.

Nick couldn't believe his ears.

She commended the emergency services, who were there "within a few minutes."

The caller said that "they had to close off the motorway" to get her out safely.

She believed that motorists have become "completely and utterly reliant on other drivers being completely aware and focused" when using smart motorways.

Nick Ferrari challenges Roads minister on the safety of smart motorways

"There is no safety net."

HGV driver Lee who uses smart motorways regularly as part of his job told Nick what it is like to spot and evade broken down cars on the road.

He began by calling for "more emergency lay-bys" on smart motorways to give motorists a lifeline should they break down.

Nick heard from the caller that on a number of occasions he's had to make split-second decisions to dodge cars on smart motorways that are left stranded after break downs.

"They appear out of nowhere."

The caller concluded by insisting that smart motorways "are death traps". "That's what I've been calling them forever", Nick said.

Campaigners have been viruntely against the motorways since their inception, calling them "death traps"
Campaigners have been viruntely against the motorways since their inception, calling them "death traps". Picture: Getty

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