Thursday, January 23, 2020

News: Legal case over smart motorways


The grieving widow of a driver killed on a smart motorway has instructed specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to begin work on a High Court legal challenge calling for them to be scrapped.

Jason Mercer was one of two men killed when they were knocked down by a HGV near junction 34 of the M1 at Meadowhall in South Yorkshire. Moments earlier Jason, of Rotherham, and 22-year-old Alexandru Murgreanu, from Mansfield, had been involved in a minor collision.

The stretch of road is classed as an all lanes running (ALR) motorway, meaning there is no hard shoulder in operation. Jason, 44, and the other man had pulled over as far as they could to exchange details. However, after they left their vehicles a lorry collided with the pair. They were pronounced dead at the scene.

Their deaths mean that five people have died on that route in the past year.

Highways England schemes through the borough include the £106m scheme on a ten mile stretch of the M1 between junctions 32 (south of Sheffield and Rotherham) and 35a (north of Sheffield and Rotherham) and a 20 mile stretch of the M1 between junction 28 (South Normanton) and 31 (Aston).

The projects include converting the hard shoulder to an extra traffic lane in both directions and variable mandatory speed limits and they deliver benefits at a significantly lower cost than conventional motorway widening, and with less impact on the environment during construction.


Helen Smith, solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, said: "The safety of smart motorways which operate without a hard shoulder has been called into question on a number of occasions in recent years and the number of fatalities on such routes both locally and nationwide is a major cause for concern.

"In fact the Transport Select Committee has previously published a report warning that the government should not go ahead with all lane running motorways because they posed a dangerous risk to drivers and emergency services.

"Through our initial investigations and the increasing amount of families which have been torn apart because of fatalities on smart motorways, it is clear that a full and urgent review of their use needs to be completed."

Leading a Parliamentary debate this week, Rotherham MP Sarah Champion challenged the Government to improve safety on ALR Smart Motorways or face the prospect of more deaths.

She said: "The safety of motorists must always be paramount. It is totally unacceptable to risk lives in the name of cost savings.

"There is no evidence that shows me that ALR can ever be delivered safely. I therefore strongly believe the government must stop the rollout with immediate effect.

"Until the obvious and intrinsic risks which come with removing the hard shoulder are addressed, existing schemes should be revert to traditional motorways from today."

Images: Highways England


Rod January 23, 2020 at 1:30 PM  

‘Smart’ motorways are, infact, dumb! The former hard shoulder is invariably under used and a breakdown exceedingly dangerous. I now go east to the A1 and back west further south rather than using the M1. I offer this opinion as a personal view and in no way make comment re the legal case.

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