Highways England responds to criticism over smart motorway Emergency Vehicle access
Highways England South West has responded to concerns ambulances are becoming stuck in traffic in the event of a crash on smart motorways.
M5 and M4 motorists have been sharing a range of concerns since news broke of a car being crushed by a truck after breaking down in a live lane on the M1.
One of the concerns is that when traffic is at a standstill after an accident – and the hard shoulder is in use – there is nowhere for cars to pull over so ambulances can pass.
Highways England said it can “use technology to provide an access route for emergency services” in any lane.
But no timescale has been provided about how long it can take for a lane to clear so an ambulance can get through.
Ian McMillan, 73, from Lynton, in North Devon, is one of those concerned.
He said sitting on the M4 after an accident watching a trapped ambulance felt “horrendous” and has strengthened his position against smart motorways.
Mr McMillan says the incident in mind occurred around six to seven months on the M4 westbound, about 20 miles from Bristol.
Although he cannot know how long the ambulance took to get through to the accident – he was in standstill traffic for around an hour and 20 minutes which made him very concerned.
He said: “I heard the siren and moved over until my car was practically touching the crash barrier.
“It was horrendous really.
“I heard the ambulance for some time but they switched the siren off as there is no point.
“People knew that the ambulance was behind them and they were pulling over as best they could.
“The four lanes were all blocked. They were bumper to bumper – as you are in a jam. It was very difficult.
“I have no idea how long it took for the ambulance to finally get there.
“All I know is that we were stuck for about an hour and 20 minutes.”
The incident has cemented Mr McMillan’s view against smart motorways.
He said: “It was the ambulance crew we felt sorry for, apart from the victims of the accident of course.
“It must be very frustrating for them trying to get to the accident.
“I’m really against these smart motorways.
“I suppose it will take a really bad accident for anything to be done about it.”
But Highways England has said it has clear procedures agreed with the ambulance service and that it can ‘use technology’ to provide access.