DfT keeps 'urgent' smart motorway probe findings to itself

Chris Ames

National Highways has provided the Department for Transport (DfT) with an ‘initial update’ on its investigation into allegations of serious safety failings on smart motorways but both organisations have refused to disclose the early findings.

Last week the Daily Mail revealed that an undercover reporter had spent six weeks at the South Mimms Regional Operations Centre in Hertfordshire, which covers sections of smart motorways on the M25, M1 and M4.

It said its investigation had found that more than one in 10 safety cameras were either broken, misted up or facing the wrong way, leaving control room staff unable to check reports of broken-down vehicles, and that software used to close lanes went down several times while the reporter worked at the control room.

In response to the story, transport secretary Grant Shapps said: 'I am deeply concerned by these allegations and have instructed National Highways to conduct a detailed investigation. I expect to receive an initial update on this within days.'

The prime minister's spokesperson subsequently said that ministers would ensure that the investigation would be 'thorough'. However, the DfT declined to provide any details of the nature of the investigation and its scope.

On Thursday (7 October) the DfT told Highways that it had received National Highways’ initial update on its investigation and would ‘urgently consider its preliminary findings while we await its full report’. Asked what the initial findings were, a spokesperson for the department said it would provide an ‘update in due course’.

National Highways said that it was ‘continuing to keep the secretary of state updated on the investigation’ which it said ‘is continuing’. A spokesperson declined to provide any information on the initial findings.

Jim Jim McMahon, Labour's shadow transport secretary, said: 'Lives are being put at risk while ministers drag their feet and their refusal to be open about initial safety reviews will do nothing to alleviate the very real concerns of people who have to drive on these roads every day.

'The shocking findings of recent investigations show the time for the Government to act on smart motorways is long overdue. They must reinstate the hard shoulder while proper scrutiny of the failings exposed in the system is carried out.'

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said: 'It is good that National Highways have investigated quickly, however it is a little disappointing that the initial findings are being withheld.

'Following such claims, it would have been better to have indicated the direction of travel with the investigation and offer a sense of openness into the process. It could also have used the opportunity to reassure drivers who are nervous about using smart motorways.'

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue


  • Smart motorways' BCR problem
  • New lighting decision support tool



View the latest issue

Highways jobs

Highway Engineer - Reactive Maintenance

£35,354 - £40,506 incl. LWA, plus £963 car allowance
We make a difference to the environment we live in. Come and help us manage our highway infrastructure. Bracknell, Berkshire
Recruiter: Bracknell Forest Borough Council

Maintenance Manager

£43,857 to £47,782
We are currently looking for a strong candidate to take up the role of Maintenance Manager at Area 6 Boroughbridge. Boroughbridge, York
Recruiter: North Yorkshire County Council

Engineer Sustainable Development

£32,234 - £36,922 per annum
To help support this key area of work, we are looking for an enthusiastic, experienced and forward thinking Engineer to... Stafford, Staffordshire
Recruiter: Staffordshire County Council

Senior Engineer (Streetscene)

£40,632 - £45,594
We are looking for 2 Senior Engineers to join our team to help deliver effective Capital and Revenue investments programmes to... Hackney, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Hackney London Borough Council

Neighbourhood Highway Officers - West and North

£28,672 per annum
We are seeking a recruit two Neighbourhood Highway Officers (NHO), to be based in Okehampton and Tiverton, Devon. Devon
Recruiter: Devon County Council

Warehouse Assistant/Driver

£20,903 - £24,491 per annum
The successful applicants will work as part of a team in a busy work environment to carry out warehouse and... Sandwell, West Midlands
Recruiter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Planning Policy Manager

£61.470 - £64.704
Be part of Greenwich's vision to successfully accommodate a high level of sustainable growth, which... Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Refuse Driver (Rolling Advert - applications checked weekly)

£30.032 - £31.610
It is an exciting time in Street Services at the Royal Borough of Greenwich. Be part of a team who are... Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Traffic Engineer

£32,301 - £37,491
We are currently looking for an experienced Traffic Engineer to join our Design & Engineering team.  London (Greater)
Recruiter: Hackney London Borough Council

Apprentice Civil Engineering Technician

This opportunity is primarily based out of our West Offices in the heart of York. York, North Yorkshire
Recruiter: City of York Council

Traffic Enforcement Manager

£40,869 - £43,860
As part of a major service transformation, Haringey is seeking to recruit to a new number of new positions. Haringey, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Haringey London Borough Council

Refuse Driver

£30032 - £31610 per annum + (amount shown is salary plus allowances)
Refuse Driver (LGV Chargehand Driver)(starting total pay of £30,032 - this is made up of the base grade salary plus contractual overtime and allowance England, London, Woolwich
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Corporate Director (Environment, Communities & Leisure)

Up to £83,424 (pay award pending)
As one of our two Corporate Directors reporting to the Chief Executive to form our Senior Leadership Team your... Gedling, Nottingham
Recruiter: Gedling Borough Council

Senior Infrastructure Engineer

£45.834 - £56.141
This is a great role in a vibrant and growing team; we’re looking for people with significant experience in... Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Parking Service Business Manager

£43,860 - £46,839
As part of a major service transformation, Haringey is seeking to recruit to a new number of new positions. Haringey, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Haringey London Borough Council

Roads Technician

£18,812 - £23,791
This is a great opportunity for you to join Lincolnshire County Council's Technical Services Partnership as... Lincolnshire
Recruiter: Lincolnshire County Council

Roads Engineer

£25,991 - £35,745
We are looking for people to join one of our three Roads teams, made up of around 30 friendly and enthusiastic professionals. Lincolnshire
Recruiter: Lincolnshire County Council

Senior Project Manager

Up to £50,823 per annum
The role of this post is to oversee the project management, development and implementation of the County Council’s Major Transport Projects.. Leicestershire
Recruiter: Leicestershire County Council

Programme and Change Delivery Manager (Spatial Planning and Urban Design)

£43,833 - £53,115 Depending on skills and experience
Are you a change delivery manager with expertise in England’s local government spatial planning and urban design sector? Wandsworth, London (Greater)
Recruiter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Bridges Manager – Highways and Transportation

£49,320 to £57,376
You will be responsible for... Northallerton, North Yorkshire
Recruiter: North Yorkshire County Council

Highways Presents

Highways on Fridays

Register now!

Latest Video