'A constant danger' Police boss calls for smart motorways to be scrapped

A smart freeway, featured in two recent investigations, was about to be scrapped after another major accident, a police chief said.

South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Dr. Alan Billings said an occupant of a stationary car in an active lane of the M1 must be flown to hospital after a truck crashed.

He has repeatedly criticized the intelligent motorway on the M1, which has no hard shoulder on this route, and described it as “inherently dangerous” last year.

Dr. Billings said, “I said that as long as it stays in place, it is a constant danger to anyone unlucky enough to either collapse in it or drive along when another vehicle breaks down.

“Since then, two coroners have raised serious concerns about the smart highway in South Yorkshire and I have written to the Secretary of Transportation to express my serious concerns.

“Last Friday we had another incident in which a heavy commercial vehicle collided with a stationary car in an active lane.

“One of the occupants of the car was flown to the hospital with very serious injuries.”

The PCC added, “I am forced to reiterate my concerns and urge Highways England and the Department of Transportation to reconsider this type of motorway.

“I don’t think there’s anyone who uses this stretch of the highway like me who doesn’t feel scared while driving.”

He said, “I urge the Minister and Highways England to abandon this kind of smart highway before we have serious injury or death.”

Last week, a coroner investigating the death of 62-year-old grandmother Nargis Begum on the smart highway referred Highways England to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to see if the corporate manslaughter charge was appropriate.

She died on a hard shouldered stretch of the M1 in South Yorkshire near Woodall Services in September 2018.

And last month, another coroner concluded that smart highways “pose an ongoing risk for future deaths.”

Sheffield coroner David Urpeth said the leading cause of death for Jason Mercer, 44, and Alexandru Murgeanu, 22, on the M1 in South Yorkshire in June 2019 was careless driving by truck driver Prezemyslaw Szuba, who came to a halt in their Vehicles got plowed in lane one after a small shunt.

Taking up the conclusion of an unlawful murder, Mr. Urpeth said, “I find that it is indeed a lack of hard shoulder that contributed to this tragedy.”

A Department of Transportation spokesman said: “Since taking office, the Secretary of Transportation has allocated £ 500m to improve smart motorway safety and recently urged Highways England to accelerate work in certain areas.

“The safety and security of drivers and passengers using these routes remains our priority.”

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