'We know people are dying on Smart Motorways': Review called over highways scheme being built in Northamptonshire

A review has been ordered into the safety of Smart Motorways in the UK.
A review has been ordered into the safety of Smart Motorways in the UK.

A review over the safety of Smart Motoway schemes like the one being built in Northamptonshire right now has been announced.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps told MPs Thursday (October 25) he needed more "evidence" they were safe for motorists and told the House of Commons: "We know people are dying on Smart Motorways."

Transport secretary Grant Schapps: "We know people are dying on Smart Motorways."

Transport secretary Grant Schapps: "We know people are dying on Smart Motorways."

Some 23 miles of the scheme is under construction in Northamptonshire.

When finished, the "all lanes running" system would mean there would be no hard shoulders between J13 through J16 in the county.

Instead, the major motorway will have 'emergency refuge areas' every mile or so that motorists have to reach by coasting.

The scheme has been heavily criticised in Northamptonshire and nationally for being 'confusing' and putting broken-down drivers at risk by stranding them in live lanes.

Some 23 miles of smart motorway is being constructed through Northamptonshire on the M1.

Some 23 miles of smart motorway is being constructed through Northamptonshire on the M1.

Grant Schapps told MPs yesterday: "I have asked my department to carry out at pace an evidence stock-take to gather the facts quickly and make recommendations.

"We know people are dying on smart motorways.

"Understanding whether they are less safe, the same or safer - it turns out not to be as straightforward as members might imagine - I want all of those facts and recommendations that can be put into place to ensure that all of our motorways are as safe as they possibly can be."

The transport secretary said the review and recommendations would be complete in "a matter of weeks".

Nationally on the M1, five people have died on operational Smart Motorways.

And in April this year, the chair of the Road Rescue Recovery Association (RRRA) Shaun Coole - who has been rescuing breakdowns on the M1 for more than 30 years - called a death on Northampton's Smart Motorway "inevitable".

Mr Coole told the Chronicle and Echo: "You are placing obstacles in the middle of a live lane.

"Deaths will happen. If someone breaks down at night and their alternator goes [so their lights don't work], that's it for them."

The smart motorway between J16 to J19 through Northamptonshire opened in February 2018 after years of construction and planning.