Safety initiative on M62 not set to bring back hard shoulder
Government announces new safety plan which look set to bring changes to the section between Huddersfield and Leeds.
Plans to boost safety on the controversial ‘smart motorway’ will NOT mean the return of the hard shoulder on a section of the M62 in West Yorkshire, the Department of Transport (DfT) has confirmed.
The Transport Secretary announced on Thursday that so-called ‘dynamic hard shoulders’ are to be scrapped.
A number of sections of the M62 between J26 at Chainbar and J30 at Rothwell feature dynamic lanes that alternates between being used and being out of use, depending on the sign on the overhead gantry.
It differs from the smart motorway on the M1 where all four lanes are used all the time.
The DfT has now confirmed to YorkshireLive that the dynamic lanes on a 15 mile stretch of the M62 will be made into permanent live lanes.
It said it would be investigating “the clusters of incidents on the M1 at Sheffield and Wakefield.”
Smart motorways were introduced with the aim of increasing capacity and easing congestion by using the hard shoulder as an extra lane.
But they have been criticised by the government minister who originally approved the roll-out in 2010.
The Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, said “confusing” dynamic hard shoulders would soon be abolished.
An action plan to boost safety also includes automatic fines for people who drive through a red X lane closure and a host of changes to improve the emergency areas.
Mr Shapps said: “Smart motorways have helped us cope with a 23% rise in traffic since 2000.
“They save motorists thousands of hours sitting in jams.
“They reduce the disruption and environmental destruction which would otherwise be needed to widen our busiest roads.
“Their growth, however, has not always been well explained, there is not uniformity, and concerns exist over safety.
“As part of our work we listened to the families who’ve campaigned on this issue, and I want to pay tribute to them. I’m also grateful to colleagues and groups like the AA and RAC who have pursued this issue and helped us reach this outcome.
“But I am clear that there is more we can do to raise the bar on smart motorway safety.
“The extended package of measures I have set out will help rebuild public confidence in our motorway network and ensure that safety is firmly at the heart of the programme.”
Speaking to Panorama in January, Sir Mike Penning, who is no longer a minister, said he had been misled about the risks of taking away the hard shoulder.
The Conservative MP said promises that emergency safety refuges would be built every 600 metres had not been kept, with some being as much as 2.5 miles apart.
“They are endangering people’s lives,” said Sir Mike. “There are people that are being killed and seriously injured on these roads, and it should never have happened.”
Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Huddersfield based road safety charity Brake, said: “Safety must always be the priority when it comes to our roads and so we cautiously welcome today’s announcement on smart motorways.
“The new measures will go some way to addressing the safety concerns of those using smart motorways and should be implemented as a matter of urgency.
“We will continue to press the Government to ensure that the safety of smart motorways remains under constant review and that all steps are taken to reduce risk and provide confidence and assurance to the public.”