Gov­ern­ment to im­ple­ment more lay-bys on smart mo­tor­ways due to safety fears

More emer­gency refuge ar­eas are planned fol­low­ing scares for stranded mo­torists

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EX­TRA LAY-BYS WILL be in­tro­duced on smart mo­tor­ways amid grow­ing fears about the lack of hard shoul­ders on such ma­jor roads.

High­ways Eng­land said it will in­stall a num­ber of ad­di­tional emer­gency refuge ar­eas in lo­ca­tions where the hard shoul­der is used to ease con­ges­tion dur­ing peak traf­fic times.

The pledge fol­lows a num­ber of near-misses re­ported in the na­tional me­dia, in which peo­ple have been stranded in live lanes of mo­tor­ways with no hard shoul­der, no lane clo­sure and no change to the speed limit.

High­ways Eng­land also promised that it will re­duce the max­i­mum dis­tance be­tween lay-bys in fu­ture schemes from 1.5 miles to one mile where pos­si­ble to pro­vide “greater re­as­sur­ance to road users”.

Parts of mo­tor­ways such as the M1, M4, M6 and M25 al­ready fea­ture ‘all-lane run­ning’ at times, and an­other 480 miles are planned.

In a re­cent AA study, 79% of 20,000 re­spon­dents said mo­tor­ways are now more dan­ger­ous com­pared with four years ago be­cause of the re­moval of the hard shoul­der.

AA pres­i­dent Ed­mund King de­scribed the in­crease in the num­ber of lay-bys as “vic­tory for com­mon sense”. He said: “Im­prov­ing ca­pac­ity and eas­ing con­ges­tion on our mo­tor­ways is key for the econ­omy, but not at the ex­pense of safety.”

MP Lil­ian Green­wood, from the Trans­port Se­lect Com­mit­tee, said the AA sur­vey demon­strates that the pub­lic still has “se­ri­ous con­cerns” about the safety of all-lane run­ning schemes.

“The per­ma­nent con­ver­sion of the hard shoul­der into a run­ning lane on our busiest mo­tor­ways is a rad­i­cal change for mo­torists and cre­ates a real chal­lenge,” she said. “In June 2016, our pre­de­ces­sor com­mit­tee warned the Gov­ern­ment not to press ahead with all-lane run­ning schemes while ma­jor safety con­cerns ex­isted. They still ex­ist.”

Green­wood added that plans to re­duce the dis­tance be­tween emer­gency lay-bys to ev­ery mile still fall “far short of the com­mit­tee’s rec­om­men­da­tion that the ar­eas should be spaced at 500-800 metres apart” and urged High­ways Eng­land to re­view that de­ci­sion.

Mean­while, from spring, driv­ers will be fined for flout­ing smart mo­tor­way laws. So far, 80,000 warn­ing let­ters have al­ready been is­sued since 2016, a third of which re­late to driv­ers ig­nor­ing closed lane warn­ings sig­ni­fied by a red X sign on over­head gantries. Along­side the im­mi­nent in­tro­duc­tion of fines, road­side cam­eras will also be tri­alled to au­to­mat­i­cally de­tect il­le­gal lane us­age.

The of­fence falls under the cat­e­gories of driv­ing without due care and at­ten­tion or dan­ger­ous or reck­less driv­ing, with penal­ties rang­ing from three points to dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

The most likely penalty is a fixed fine of £100 and three points.

Max­i­mum dis­tance be­tween lay-bys will drop to one mile

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