Investment not as smart as it seems
Dear Sir, — Our transport infrastructure M6a, M6b, M1a, M1b ... instead of smart motorways/dumb motorways?
Last week, I was driving to Yorkshire when we had a blow out on the near, rear tyre. I made my way to the hard shoulder, but it was very narrow, as traffic in the inside lane was passing very close to me at speed.
I travelled slower and slower with the intent to stop, but the situation was frightening so I drove on until I reached the safety of a junction.
It was well worth writing the tyre off as opposed to changing it and risking my life in doing so.
The current investment in smart motorways is not as smart as it seems, in fact, in 2016, I agreed with Ann Widdecombe, the AA and Rex Garratt, in that smart motorways represent a very short term solution. Not to mention the “immediate” demand for an adequate hard shoulder.
Their construction, as any professional driver will agree, represents a temporary solution and will no doubt be a threat to lives on our motorway system.
Doing away with the hard shoulder will affect safety even if there is a system of red crosses representing lane closure.
Any problem will possibly not be detected or reported immediately and, with the current motorway traffic, I suggest, would not be able to avert a possible disaster.
In a recent survey, eight out of ten drivers think the UK’s growing network of smart motorways is dangerous. Any vehicle breaking down on these sections of the M1, M4, M6, M25, M42 and M62, which now use the hard shoulder as a driving lane, is in danger of being hit from behind. There are more than 200 miles of motorway which have been converted to this system, which, I have already indicated is monitored by CCTV and controlled by overhead signs, but, as always, time will be of the essence.
A further 400 miles is scheduled for conversion over the next four years.
We have already had the prediction, which proved to be right, that 30m cars will threaten bank holiday chaos. These are 2016 figures, but what are the predictions for bank holidays this year?
With regards to construction, why does it take so long? On my journeys on those motorways being converted, there appears, for example, to be a few people working, with four people in conversation or on their mobile, three or four in their vehicles and two or three people walking between stages. We have machinery which can do the tasks of 20 or 30 men, but could Brunel do the job quicker?
I agree that our transport infrastructure is somewhat inadequate in certain areas and some of the problems are being addressed, but there are no better car parks than the M1, M25 and M6 in certain areas and at certain times.
In the early days of the construction of the M6, if my memory serves me right, there were plans for a parallel motorway between Stafford and Knutsford, but this was a pay motorway and was shelved without a fuss.
The road chiefs claim that the revamped routes, where hard shoulders are turned into live lanes to ease congestion, are safe lanes because they have regularly spaced lay-bys. In my opinion, these lay-bys are too far apart and, anyway, there is no substitute for an adequate width hard shoulder.
Figures reveal 19,316 motorists broke down in a live lane on a smart motorway in 2017 and in 2016 it rose to 26 a day.
An RAC survey of 1,800 motorists found that 68% said the removal of the hard shoulder was dangerous and 78% said that they were worried about not being able to reach a refuge area The department for transport did admit a possible review, after the boss of Highways England admitted that drivers had been killed, but that this was due to delays in the installation of life-saving technology to spot stricken vehicles and to stop other vehicles from potentially putting them into a collision course.
But what about collisions, they block more than one lane, possibly all four? I presume that this will result in red “X” symbols appearing over all the lanes. Shockingly, another survey revealed that at least one in five motorists ignored the signs potentially putting them onto a collision course.
Perhaps this will result in four red crosses and the emergency services being able to gain access by going down the wrong way of the motorway?
We live in the age of smart things, smart motorways, smart phones, smart homes, smart cars, smart televisions and smart meters.
And yet, have you noticed how almost anything that carries the prefix “smart” somehow they end up being anything but. — Yours faithfully,