Ministers have tried to cool a row with MPs over the removal of hard shoulders on motorways after being accused of 'blatantly ignoring safety concerns'.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said it was ‘mindful’ of the concerns highlighted by the transport committee, which called for a moratorium on the roll-out of all lane running (ALR) schemes on motorways where the hard shoulder is converted into a live traffic lane.
An emergency refuge area
While ministers have pushed ahead with rolling out new ALR schemes, they promised a ‘step change’ in the way the Government responds to the Transport Select Committee.
The pledges came in the DfT’s response to a highly critical report from the committee, which followed the Government’s response to an earlier report on ALR.
In September, committee chair Louise Ellman accused the DfT of ‘blatantly ignoring the safety concerns set out in our report’ by pressing ahead with all lane running on the M4.
The DfT's latest response pointed to ‘growing evidence that ALR is providing much-needed additional capacity quickly and efficiently on our roads while maintaining or improving safety’, but said it is ‘determined that the reviews into Emergency Refuge Areas (ERAs) should be completed swiftly and that action on the recommendations will be taken’.
It added: ‘To be clear, that means both changing the design of new schemes and retrofitting existing ones, where necessary. The Government assures the TSC that continuing with delivery of current ALR schemes must not prevent any of that from happening.’
The DfT said the Government and Highways England would like to work with the committee during the reviews and would be in contact with Ms Ellman to offer a meeting.
It said: ‘We want this to be part of a step change in the way Government and Highways England communicate and engage, in response to the TSC’s reports.’
The latest response from the DfT explained that the statutory Development Consent Order process for the M4 scheme required a decision to be issued no later than 3 September 2016.
It added that the outcome of a Highways England review of ERA spacing, signing and size would be considered as part of the development of the M4 scheme, as well as other ALR schemes.
Responding to the committee’s call for ‘meaningful enforcement’ in relation to drivers ignoring Red X’s, the DfT said it would take the necessary ‘through a combination of education and enforcement’.
It added that the Government is progressing the legislation to amend the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 to enable the use of automated detection for the enforcement of non-compliance with Red X signals and that Highways England has developed an interim detection system to help the police identify non-compliant vehicles ‘so targeted warning letters can be issued’.