‘Smart’ LTC aspects of safety

With ‘Smart’ Motorways being very much in the news at the moment, and rightly so, we wanted to know more about this aspect to the ‘Smart’ LTC.  We have already published an update – , but we had more questions we needed answers to, so we asked HE:

  • Please could you provide further details of the technology that is described on page 6 of the Supplementary Consultation Guide, which refers to technology providing lane control and variable speed limits up to 70mph. Page 19 of same guide, 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.Are HE considering using smart motorway technology?Also please could you please provide full detail and information on if and where there is any traditional hard shoulder along the LTC and it’s connections to the existing road network.  Plus details of how many Emergency Refuge Areas are being proposed, where they are, and the distances between them, again for the entire route and all connections to the existing road network.Could we also have the distances of each of the connecting roads to and from the existing road network to the LTC and junctions. For example, what is the distance from where the LTC slip road leaves the A13 westbound towards the LTC, breaking it down to distances between each split/junction, so from A13 to where it splits for LTC South, and then distance on to where it splits for A1089 south and LTC North, and the distance from there to merging onto the LTC North.  We would appreciate this info for every junction, connection please, with details of any ERA’s if present.It would appear that emergency vehicle to LTC north and south access is listed as being on the Brentwood Rd, near Chadwell St Mary and possibly Heath Rd, Orsett.  Please could you provide more info on this, including details of why these particular locations was chosen, and whether there are any other emergency vehicle access points along the entire route.

HE replied:

  • We are designing the Lower Thames Crossing to the highest safety standards and in accordance with Government safety design regulations. The LTC is not currently designed as a motorway, but as an All Purpose Trunk Road such as an A Road. It will however be designed to Smart Motorway standards including the provision of emergency refuge areas a minimum of 1.6km apart and lane detection technology. The design also provides Stopped Vehicle Detection systems, incident detection and automatic signals, in line with Government regulations.The route will not have a hard shoulder along the majority of the route. Should a vehicle need to stop before it reaches a refuge area, technology used along the route will detect the stopped vehicle and change the over-lane signals to indicate that the affected lane is closed to traffic.The hard shoulder that was proposed along the A2 eastbound connector road has been replaced with a hard strip, to reduce impact on the AONB. The change to the design of the junction, with the inclusion of lane control through the use of smart motorway technology, means that road users will see clear signage on the approach to the junction and means that safety levels are maintained even without a hard shoulder.  On all one lane slip roads hard shoulders are provided, for example on the Brewers Rd eastbound slip.As regards Brentwood Road, emergency access will be provided from Brentwood Road on to the LTC northbound and southbound to improve response times for emergency services from Orsett and Grays. This location was chosen due to the proximity to the Stanford Road Fire station following engagement with the emergency services. We will continue to work with them as we develop detailed plans for the crossing.
Our reactions

Clearly recent media coverage shows that the Government has concerns over the safety standards of ‘Smart’ Motorways, so this is something we can all express our concerns on and comment on in our consultation responses.

We managed to get clarification as to what a hard strip was compared to a hard shoulder yesterday at an info event.  A hard shoulder would be a 3 wide lane, a hard strip is just a 1m strip on each side of the lanes, on the edge and in the central reservation.

Emergency Refuge Areas/Emergency Areas

If you dig deep enough and look at Map Book 3 – Engineer Plans you can search for Emergency Areas marked EA on the plans.  It takes a bit of searching, and again the plans are not always clear and easy to ideintify where you are, and orientation of each plan varies so keep an eye on which direction North is pointing to try and get your bearings.

At the event we also asked specifically about ERA/EAs or any kind of safety features on viaduct sections of LTC, such as over the Tilbury Loop Railway line, and across the Mardyke.  Obviously anywhere on a major road like LTC would be busy, but viaducts without hardshoulders become an even higher risk because you can be exposed without anywhere to offer you any protection in the event of an incident when you need to stop on the road.

There are Emergency Areas near-ish to the viaducts over the Tilbury Loop Railway line, and over the Mardyke, but what about if you end up having to stop on them? We have been told there should be some kind of parapit/balcony for safety created on the viaducts when neccessary.  Of course we want more reassurances and details on that.

We are currently trying to find out when the last update was with regard to predictions of accidents for LTC, and other road safety data, and will update again as we can clarify anything.

Emergency Vehicle Access

With regard to emergency vehicle access there will be access for Emergency vehicles to the LTC south and north via new emergency vehicle only access off the Brentwood Rd. A new emergency vehicle only access for the A1089 south off Heath Road.  There will also be access for emergency vehicles to the northern tunnel portal via Station Rd onto the LTC service/maintenance road.