Smart motorways blamed as motorists spend £25m to recover vehicles
Smart motorways have been blamed for a significant rise in the number of broken-down vehicles recovered from motorways and A-roads.
Under road laws, Highways England traffic officers can order vehicles to be recovered if they are blocking a ‘live lane’ of traffic, or if the driver’s own recovery firm will take too long to attend.
This typically costs drivers between £150 and £300, plus storage fees once their vehicle is moved to a compound.
According to Auto Express magazine, the number of vehicles recovered under the organisation’s so-called ‘statutory removal’ powers has increased by a third over the last few years – a significantly greater rise than general traffic levels.
Road experts have linked the rise to the rollout of smart motorways, where the hard shoulder is removed to ease congestion.
Although smart motorways are built with regularly-spaced emergency refuges, many drivers are forced to stop in live lanes of traffic – meaning there is greater urgency to move their vehicle to avoid potential collisions.
Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said the revelations ‘highlight the need for more emergency refuge areas’.
Stuart Milne, executive editor of Auto Express, added: ‘While most drivers would agree that getting a stricken vehicle off a busy motorway or A-road is a priority, Highways England’s charges feel like another tax on the motorist.
‘Perhaps more than that, this rise in revenue correlates with the rollout of smart motorways.
‘It’s not much of a leap to suggest that when a vehicle breaks down in a live lane of a smart motorway, it’s far easier for traffic officers to deem it is causing an obstruction.’
Despite charging drivers £25million, Highways England has not managed to recoup expenses linked to the recoveries, meaning it has been left with a £5.5million shortfall in funding over the last five years.
Highways England was unable to say where most breakdowns occurred.
A spokesman said: ‘Our roads are among the safest in the world, and maintaining this level of safety is our number one priority. Our traffic officers work hard to keep traffic moving and road users safe.
‘Our traffic officers can remove vehicles, using a statutory recovery service, where the vehicles pose a safety risk to anyone.
‘This recovery can be from a motorway or a section of A road on our strategic road network.
‘Since the powers were introduced in 2008 the number of vehicles removed by Highways England traffic officers has increased annually.
‘It is not possible to draw any conclusions from the data released, other than to note traffic levels have steadily increased since this time.’
Original source article: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8813855/Smart-motorways-blamed-drivers-fork-25million-recover-broken-vehicles.html
Author: Tom Payne
Disclaimer: This article was not originally written by a member of the HighwaysIndustry.Com team.