Government Response to Transport Select Committee Report on Smart Motorways
I am writing to bring to your attention the publication of the Department’s response to the Transport Select Committee’s report, entitled The Rollout and safety of smart motorways. Since assuming office, I have worked to consistently raise the bar on motorway safety, to that end, one of my first actions as Transport Secretary was to order a stocktake of smart motorways and I welcome the Committee’s report published on 2 November 2021. The Stocktake and Action Plan, which I published in March 2020, focused efforts on further upgrading the safety of smart motorways. I am pleased that these efforts have been recognised by the Committee which agreed that the Government was right to focus on upgrading the safety of All Lane Running smart motorways, rather than reinstating the hard shoulder, which the Committee recognised could cause more deaths or serious injuries on our roads. Having carefully considered the Committee’s report, the Department will be taking forward all its recommendations.
This includes the recommendation to pause the roll out of future All Lane Running schemes until a full five years’ worth of safety data is available. During the pause, we will continue to make sure all existing All Lane Running smart motorways are made as safe as they can possibly be. We will also take forward the recommendations to pause the conversion of Dynamic Hard Shoulder smart motorways to All Lane Running until the next Road Investment Strategy. An All Lane Running motorway refers to when the hard shoulder is permanently converted into a running lane and there are emergency areas for places to stop in an emergency.
On Dynamic Hard Shoulder smart motorways, the hard shoulder is used temporarily used as a live running lane to increase capacity, with electronic signs to guide drivers when it is safe to use for live running. Emergency areas are installed as on this type of motorway as they are on All Lane Running smart motorways. We will additionally retrofit more Emergency Areas across existing All Lane Running schemes; conduct an independent evaluation of the effectiveness of stopped vehicle detection technology; explore the introduction of the emergency corridor manoeuvre into the Highway Code; and, investigate the benefits of health and safety assessments being undertaken by the Office of Rail and Road. Taken together, these measures will help ensure that our roads continue to be among the safest in the world, helping drivers not just to be safe, but crucially, to feel safe and confident when driving. I am grateful for the Transport Select Committee’s scrutiny and to all those that provided evidence for their work. I will be instructing National Highways to take immediate steps to implement the actions as set out in the response and will update the Committee on progress over the coming year. National Highways will also be writing to all MPs in Great Britain due course inviting them to attend a smart motorway briefing, which I would encourage you to attend if you are interested.