PCC Describes Motorway Safety Campaign as ‘Insensitive’

The South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner has hit out at Highways England over what he describes as an ‘insensitive’ and ‘provocative’ campaign in light of the current concerns around all running lane (ALR) motorways.

Dr Alan Billings has been quite vocal in his concerns about ALR motorways, also referred to as smart motorways following three deaths in South Yorkshire. Last week he wrote to the Transport Select Committee to urge them to listen to growing anxieties.

Highways England have written to Dr Billings asking him to support a motorway safety campaign, launched this week. But Dr Billings feels that the campaign, which provides guidance to road users about how they should act if they have to stop on the motorway, seems to make them responsible for staying safe and does not recognise the dangers caused by the road layout.

In response Dr Billings, said: “Highways England have written to me to say that they are planning their ‘biggest ever motorway road safety campaign’. Their letter begins: ‘Safety is Highways England’s top priority’.

“I regard this as at best insensitive and at worst quite provocative in the present circumstances. The all-party select committee is currently considering the matter of motorway safety.

“In South Yorkshire two coroners have raised serious questions about motorway safety and we have families still grieving from the death of loved ones on a stretch of so-called ‘smart’ motorway on the M1. One of those who has lost a loved one, the local MPs and myself all regard the all lane running motorways as inherently unsafe.

“In these circumstances I find it quite extraordinary that Highways England would launch this campaign. At the very least I would expect them to wait until the select committee has issued its findings.

“In the meantime I repeat my own conviction that ALR motorways have sacrificed safety for other considerations and have built dangers in to the motorways rather than designing them out. And I believe that the timing of this campaign is further evidence that Highways England is not listening to what we in South Yorkshire are saying. I urge them to think again.”

There have been three deaths and other serious accidents on the stretch of motorway in South Yorkshire since 2018. Between 1 January 2020 and 31 January 2021 there have been 360 live lane breakdowns. 288 of these incidents were attended by traffic officers.

Nationally there have been 30 fatalities on smart motorways between 2017 and 2019.