Dr Billings Responds to Smart Motorways Ban

The government has announced that plans for new smart motorways will be cancelled in recognition of the current lack of public confidence felt by drivers and cost pressures.

Responding to the announcement, Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “The government’s decision to ban any further smart motorways is a half victory in a long running campaign to have smart motorways done away with once and for all.

“I welcome what has been announced while deeply regretting that it has taken the Prime Minister so long to reach this decision.

“It is, however, only a partial victory because there is no intention to re-instate the hard shoulder on existing smart motorways, such as the all lane running (ALR) type we have in South Yorkshire.

“Yet it is on the existing smart motorways that we continue to see near misses as well as collisions on a regular basis.

“People have died on this stretch of the M1 in South Yorkshire and three coroners have concluded that the lack of a hard shoulder contributed to their deaths

“This decision does nothing to change this situation.

“The government needs to reflect on the illogicality of the position it has now put itself in.

“If, as the government now believes, there are issues about the safety of smart motorways, then those safety concerns apply as much to existing smart motorways as to any new ones.

“The government believes that existing smart motorways will be made safer by increasing the number of emergency refuges. We have been here before. Why not save the cost and disruption this will entail and simply restore the nearside live running lane as a permanent hard shoulder?

“The government seems to blunder from one expensive mistake to another.

“I remain firmly of the view that having people breakdown or stop for whatever reason in a live lane is inherently dangerous. Every motorist who uses the M1 at this point recognises this, which is why as many as 38% of drivers avoid the inside lane altogether fearing they may encounter a stranded vehicle ahead.

“I will continue to work with those in the county who have campaigned against smart motorways, including Sarah Champion MP, and especially Claire Mercer, the widow of Jason Mercer, who was killed on a smart motorway. Her tireless campaigning, I am quite sure, has been crucial in getting the government to half change its mind.

“We must press on for a complete change of mind.”