Exclusive: Shapps challenged over smart motorway safety pledge

18/03/2022
Chris Ames

A senior MP has challenged the transport secretary over a select committee request for smart motorway emergency areas (EAs) to be closer together after it emerged a key safety pledge could be watered down.

Highways understands that the Department for Transport is now including other, less safe, places to stop, when it comes to the spacing of EAs on smart motorways.

EAs are effectively laybys that provide a refuge for broken down and other stationary vehicles away from the main carriageway of a motorway, particularly those where the hard shoulder has been converted into a running lane. They are designed to be 4.6 metres wide and a minimum of 100 metres long with an emergency roadside telephone.

In his foreword to the Department for Transport's (DfT) 2020 Stocktake and Action Plan for smart motorways, Grant Shapps described ‘emergency areas…if you can reach one [as] safer places to stop than a hard shoulder’.

The document itself distinguishes between EAs and ‘places to stop in an emergency’ and pledges to reduce the distance between the latter to 3/4 of a mile ‘where feasible’ on future schemes, with a maximum spacing of 1 mile.

In its report last year, the Transport Select Committee referred specifically to emergency (refuge) areas. It recommended that: ‘The Department and National Highways should retrofit emergency refuge areas to existing all-lane running motorways to make them a maximum of 1,500 metres apart, decreasing to every 1,000 metres (0.75 miles) where physically possible.’

In January the DfT stated that it ‘agrees in principle' with this recommendation.

However, it has now told Highways that its definition of an EA also includes Motorway Service Areas (MSAs) and a new or existing hard shoulder. National Highways has said that it also counts slip roads against the spacing requirement.

Now the committee’s chair, Huw Merriman MP, has tabled a parliamentary question, specifically citing the DfT’s response to his committee’s recommendation, asking if National Highways defines MSAs, slip roads and hard shoulders as emergency refuge areas in its work retrofitting all-lane running motorways.

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, told Highways: ‘Both the department and the committee were clear in what they wanted, but neither side clarified the crucial detail behind the commitment. As such, we now have the two parties openly campaigning against the other to ensure their interpretation is delivered.

‘Installing more emergency refuge areas is a key cornerstone in boosting driver confidence, but the Government will be worried that if it has to back down from its position the retrofit project will cost more than it bargained for.’

The DfT’s response to the committee also stated explicitly: ‘The Stocktake and Action Plan launched a new standard to achieve closer spacing of EAs at 0.75 mile where feasible, up to a maximum of 1 mile. This is now a design requirement for new ALR smart motorways schemes which entered the design phase from November 2020.’

As Highways has reported, National Highways has stated that this ‘refers to places to stop in an emergency [which] could be an EA, slip road [or] service station’.

The DfT also told Highways that it considers (MSAs), and a new or existing hard shoulder to count towards this standard.

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue

Also Inside:

  • Traffex Parkex review
  • Round table: Mastering modern contracting
View the latest issue


Highways jobs

Highway Asset Principal (Performance & Information)

£44,624-£48,684
We're eager to find a compelling and persuasive individual to take advantage of this brand-new opportunity within our Highways Asset Team. Lancashire
Recruiter: Lancashire County Council

Inspector / Senior Inspector

£22,129 - £32,798 pa
Bradford Metropolitan District Council is seeking to recruit an Inspector/Senior Inspector to join the friendly Highway Maintenance Team Bradford, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: City of Bradford MDC

Assistant Contracts Manager

£29,184 to £32,389 - Plus market leading package (see below)
Derbyshire County Council are looking for an experienced Assistant Contract Manager Willington, Derbyshire
Recruiter: Derbyshire County Council

HGV Mechanic

£23,657 - £25,568 per annum – plus market leading package (see below)
We are looking for a highly motivated Heavy Goods Vehicle Mechanic to join our County Transport team. Brimington, Chesterfield
Recruiter: Derbyshire County Council

Procurement Programme Manager

£54,873 – £60,366
We have an exciting opportunity for a Procurement Programme Manager to join our team. Stratford, London (Greater)
Recruiter: East London Waste Authority (ELWA)

Team Leader LGV Driver

£22,571 - £25,419
An opportunity exists in the Council’s Street Scene Services for a Team Leader LGV Driver. Wakefield, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: Wakefield Council

Multi Skilled Operative

£20,444 - £22,129
We are seeking enthusiastic and capable colleagues to join our Highway Operations team. Wakefield, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: Wakefield Council

Transportation Planner

£35,336 - £39,571
A Transportation Planner is required for the analysis and monitoring of traffic, to design and undertake feasibility studies. Pembroke, Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro)
Recruiter: Pembrokeshire County Council

Senior Technician

£27,514
We are looking to recruit a Senior Technician within the busy Structures team. Pontypridd, Rhondda Cynon Taf
Recruiter: Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council

Senior Engineer

£36,371
We are looking to recruit a Senior Engineer within the Structures team. Pontypridd, Rhondda Cynon Taf
Recruiter: Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council

Highways Transport Strategy and Development Manager

£52,848 - £64,998
This is a unique opportunity to join a newly formed unitary authority which is mobilising a new highways contract. Northampton, Northamptonshire
Recruiter: West Northamptonshire Council

Assistant Engineer

£27,514 to £29,174 per annum
A great opportunity has arisen for an enthusiastic and self-motivated individual to join our team Preston, Lancashire
Recruiter: Preston City Council

Highways Network Manager

£52,848 - £64,998
We are forming a new highways and transport team for West Northamptonshire Council Northampton, Northamptonshire
Recruiter: West Northamptonshire Council

Highways Service Manager (Commissioning & Contract Management)

£52,848 - £64,998
We are now looking to recruit a number of talented, motivated and innovative individuals. Northampton, Northamptonshire
Recruiter: West Northamptonshire Council

Principal Officer (Network Coordination)

£39,571 - £42,614
We are looking for experienced and well-motivated staff to help shape the future delivery of the service. Oxford, Oxfordshire
Recruiter: Oxfordshire County Council

Highways Development Manager

£44,624 per annum plus £3,000 Market Forces
We are actively recruiting for Highways Development Managers within the Environment & Transport Department Hertford, Hertfordshire
Recruiter: Hertfordshire County Council

Senior Highways Officer

£36,371 per annum plus £2,000 Market Forces
Hertfordshire truly is the County of Opportunity Hertford, Hertfordshire
Recruiter: Hertfordshire County Council

Senior Engineer (Highway Maintenance)

£33,486 - £42,614 per annum
Bradford Metropolitan District Council is seeking to recruit a Senior Engineer Keighley, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: City of Bradford MDC

Assistant Director Planning, Transportation and Highways

£88,896 - £100,749
We’re looking for a leader who can enable and unlock the potential of our teams, Bradford, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: City of Bradford MDC

Contracting Engineer

£33,513 - £37,588 pay award pending
We are passionate about Doncaster - it’s a great place to live, do business and visit. Doncaster, South Yorkshire
Recruiter: Doncaster Council

Highways Presents

 

Highways on Fridays

Register now!

Latest Video