Smart motorways

Matt Jacobs, whose father, Derek, 83, was killed in March when his van came to a stop on the first lane of the M1 smart motorway before being hit by a coach, said smart motorways should be scrapped altogether.

“Hard shoulders have been a safety feature of motorways since the 1960s when there was a fraction of the traffic there is today,” he said. “With today’s volume of traffic, the decision to remove them is murderous negligence and incompetence. Many more people will be killed as a direct consequence of this decision.”

Yep, they will.

“I also pressed Highways England on their commitment to reducing spacing in the future “where applicable” to one mile – which is probably still too far apart – and left the meeting with the strong impression Highways England would look, again, to do the absolute minimum when it came to improving safety by reducing refuge area spacing.

“The ‘where applicable’ qualification appears to be just another attempt to reduce costs to the detriment of the safety of recovery operators and motorists.

How much does the change cost per statistical life saved? More than a couple of million £ and the people should die.

Which is the argument for no hard shoulder roads in the first place. Yes, some people will die but have you seen the cost of building out another lane?

14 comments on “Smart motorways

  1. The numbers are a bit jumbled from a quick search but HoC indicates £16.2m per mile when the M25 was done, compared to £9m per mile for doing the M42 smart motorway around the same time so it is still costly considering you’d think it was just a bit of line painting and some signs.

    Smart motorway sections need masses of speed indicating gantries, CCTV cameras are every 100 yards or so to watch the running hard shoulder for problems. Construction still involves lay-bys for emergencies, digging up of the hard shoulder to strengthen it and on the M4 from Reading to Slough as far as I can see this year, replacing every bridge (road and foot) as the old bridge gantries are already spaced such that there is no hard shoulder there at the moment from when it was 2 lanes.

    Having driven the M42 whenever in the UK and this summer, the M1 new smart section and experienced the road works on the M4 for that smart section coming in 2022 (what’s the cost of dozens of miles of M4 limited to 50mph for 4 years?), I’d suggest cost savings and benefits on congenstion are not as large as they appear.

    The cynic in me suggests it’s just gantries with speed/ANPR cameras that are the return for the state.

    Stats on improvement on the oldest M42 project would be interesting, my feel is that each time I’ve been on it that it’s still jammed to crap, or when running causes problems as a lot of people feel uncomfortable driving in the hard shoulder given it’s obvious usage when I’ve seen it or swapping in and out at the junctions where the hard shoulder is for the exit only.

  2. The French “gilet jaune” pack includes a warning triangle you are supposed to put up 50m before your brokedown car. Several people have been killed trying to do this.
    The triangles are so flimsy they can be blown over by the slip stream of a penny-farthing.

  3. I’m sure if a private organisation were endangering the users of their service/property like this there would be a national outcry and the owners would be being sued left right and centre, if not criminally charged. The State on the other hand…………..

  4. Noel Scoper said:
    “The cynic in me suggests it’s just gantries with speed/ANPR cameras that are the return for the state.”

    That rings true.

    A warning for anyone who hasn’t already discovered this, the smart motorway speed cameras work all the time, not like the old motorway cameras that only enforced temporary reduced speed limits. As I discovered 18 months ago, a lesson that cost me £100 and 3 points.

    So there has also been a reduction in the de facto motorway speed limit from 100mph (previously, although I don’t think it was ever official, in practice you weren’t ordinarily stopped or fined on motorways for less than that) to a rigidly enforced 70mph. As someone said on another thread today, I don’t remember voting for that.

  5. @RichardT:

    “So there has also been a reduction in the de facto motorway speed limit from 100mph (previously, although I don’t think it was ever official, in practice you weren’t ordinarily stopped or fined on motorways for less than that) ”

    My understanding from a motorway cop friend is under 80mph measured on a calibrated device and you were ok (the old speedo + 10% requirement of days of yore), but up to 100mph would get you a fixed penalty notice and over was off to the beak. A line of traffic moving at 80/90mph wasn’t likely to be interrupted by a traffic car so was ok. He always told me never be at the back of the fast lane traffic when it was running at speed.

    Now that issues over a radar camera on each lane (problems with the early M25 gantry system), requirement for physical photographs rather than digital images and so on have been sorted out in law, automated snapping at speeds just over the limit plus ANPR are limited only by how fast the penalty notice printers can roll.

  6. Smart motorways. Smart meters. England is one damn smart country!

    If hate speech can be a crime, why not smart speech?

  7. ‘Matt Jacobs, whose father, Derek, 83, was killed in March when his van came to a stop on the first lane’

    What was Derek doing when the rogue van stopped?

    I see the problem here. You need SMART VANS that don’t come to a stop on SMART MOTORWAYS.

    Belated tip for Matt Jacobs: take your 83 year old father’s keys away from him.

  8. “How much does the change cost per statistical life saved? ”

    A perfectly rational question. But whatever the official answer may be no rational person would believe it.

  9. I’m sceptical about autonomous cars taking over the majority of driving, but motorways are one of the places I can see it happening in the not-so-distant future. The driving conditions are relatively well-regulated and entry/exit can be controlled – technically it would be pretty easy to fine anyone entering the system without autonomous mode deployed (assuming autonomous vehicles communicate with each other and with road infrastructure).

    Any cost-benefit analysis which has a multi-decade time horizon for changes to the motorway system is probably wrong.

  10. For decades I’ve thought sufficient land should be bought to allow doubling +1 of lanes (plan is 2 lanes, buy 5 lanes eachway land) when motorway/bypass etc being built and bridges etc built to accommodate the extra lanes. Whilst not needed farmers etc can rent and continue to use it.

    Speed cameras – ban them

  11. I knew smart motorway=snoop motorway but the no hard shoulder shite I didn’t know. It is clearly part of their “take cars off little people-first” plan.

    Time for non-payment of speeding fines.

  12. Non-payment of fine ( if you have a valid address and assets) = (ultimately) jail time. After you, Claude.

  13. Not if enough people do it chum. And the first step to that is waking up. There are motoring organisations like the one Quintain Wilson fronts but they are weakwanks. “Stop 2p increase on a gallon of petrol” type weak. The idea of them actually pointing out the underlying eco-freak Marxist “get their cars”agenda would be funny if it wasn’t tragically unlikely.

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