Something we are all wondering is whether the proposed Lower Thames Crossing will be a Smart Motorway. Not that there is anything smart about Smart Motorways. Recent mainstream media coverage has brought to the forefront just how dangerous the are.
Who could fail to acknowledge just how dangerous they are, after watching the recent Panorama – Britain’s Killer Motorways.
What is a Smart Motorway?
A smart motorway is a motorway that uses different methods to manage the flow of traffic.
Smart motorways don’t have a hard shoulder or only have a hard shoulder at certain times.
- CCTV, radar and sensors to keep an eye on traffic.
- speed restrictions and lanes closures if there’s an incident or congestion.
- traffic calming measures like variable speed limits (of 40, 50 or 60mph), red ‘X’ lanes or driving on the hard shoulder.
- overhead signs and large roadside information signs to warn you about queues, speed limits, closed lanes and diversions.
What information do we have about LTC being a smart motorway?
Whilst there is no mention of the word smart motorway in any of the official documentation, there is wording that gives the impression it could be a possibility.
- Page 6 of the Supplementary Consultation Guide states that “the Lower Thames Crosing proposals will include technology providing lane control and variable speed limits up to 70mph“.
- Page 19 of same Guide states ” The hard shoulder has also been removed from the eastbound link road along the A2. To mitigate this it has been replaced with a hard strip and if an incident occurs we will use technology to control the traffic to prevent the link road backing up into the tunnel“.
There also appears to be a distinct lack of hard shoulder along the LTC.
We have emailed HE asking for detailed info about the technology they refer to, hard shoulders, Emergency Refuge Areas, and emergency vehicle access amongst other things, and are waiting a response.
Certainly suggests smart motorway to us.
What do Highways England say?
When we raised the matter at the recent LTC Task Force meeting on 10th Feb 2020 Highways England Development Manager, David Manning told us that it was still being discussed with the Government. Ultimately it will evidently be up to the Department for Transport to decide how the road will be categorised. From what Mr Manning said on Monday evening it sounds likely to be considered an all purpose trunk road. Whatever that means!
Regardless of what they call it, it still sounds dangerously like smart motorway conditions to us I’m afraid.
The dangers of Smart Motorways
You may wish to watch Panorama – Britain’s Killer Motorways, which is available to watch again on BBC iPlayer – https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000dtqv. The programme clearly shows the lethal dangers, including recordings and footage of accidents and very near misses.
Also in the programme, the Sectretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps MP, who is at this time the person who would be responsible for deciding whether to grant the LTC Development Consent Order or not said “We absolutely have to have these as safe or safer than regular motorways or we shouldn’t have them at all.” He stated that the Government are investigating the matter.
Sir Mike Penning MP, who was the Transport Minister who signed off on the expansion of the smart motorway network was also interviewed. He stated that what he signed off on was not delivered, and that what was delivered was dangerous.
Smart motorway networks are considered so dangerous AA breakdown crews are not allowed to stop on the roads to help stricken motorists. Instead they are instructed to drive to a safer location and wait for a car to be towed by Highways England crews according to a former staff member. Edmund King, President of the AA stated on Panorama that Smart Motorways are dangerous and are not fit for purpose.
In this BBC report (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-50169527) from Oct 2019, Highways England CEO, Jim O’Sullivan is stated as saying he did not think he would build any more dynamic smart motorways because too many motorists do not understand them. Maybe we all need to contact Mr O’Sullivan and remind him of this!
What do you think?
We would suggest and encourage you to express your comments and concerns in Question 7 (Using the Crossing), or if you prefer in Question 8 (Other comments). Please be sure to give as much detail and as many reasons as possible why you feel the way you do. You may wish to mention that you have seen Panorama if you watched. Or the fact you are aware of the dangers of Smart Motorways, and express your concerns over the safety of LTC. Whatever you want to say!
What else can I do?
You may wish to show your concerns over Smart Motorways by considering signing a petition like this one that the Transport Action Network have been discussing on social media just today! (https://www.change.org/p/scrap-dangerous-smart-motorways)
Contact the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps MP – The Transport for Secretary, Grant Shapps MP, Department for Transport, Great Minster House, 33 Horseferry Road, London, SW1P 4DR or email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter: @grantshapps
Or contact Jim O’Sullivan,CEO Highways England – Bridge House, 1 Walnut Tree Close, Guildford, Surrey, GU1 4LZ or email: Jim.OSullivan@highways.gsi.gov.uk.
You may also wish to check out a website that we came across whilst reseaching the dangers of Smart Motorways for this update – https://smartmotorwayskill.co.uk/.