The chair of the Transport Select Committee has accused ministers of ‘blatantly ignoring safety concerns’ by launching new all lane running schemes, despite its recent call for a moratorium.
In a report published in June, the committee distinguished between all lane running and earlier ‘smart motorway’ schemes and said ministers should not proceed with new all lane running schemes while major safety concerns exist.
The M62 'smart motorway' is an all lane running scheme
However, transport secretary Chris Grayling has since backed Highways England’s plans to convert 32 miles of the M4 to all lane running.
The committee has now published the Government’s response to its report, which said the Government was ‘disappointed that several of the conclusions do not appear to be based on the evidence provided regarding safety'.
The Government said it ‘understands the concerns raised and some of the criticisms made', and is ‘not complacent about the safety of road users, which is of paramount importance’.
Transport Select Committee chair Louise Ellman said: ‘The Department for Transport is blatantly ignoring the safety concerns set out in our report. We had barely received the response to our report before the Government endorsed an all lane running scheme on the M4.
‘The Committee isn’t arguing with the Government about the need for more capacity on our motorways, or their statement that motorways are our safest roads. We support smart motorways such as the M42 scheme.
‘But we take real issue with the Government’s assertion that all lane running schemes on motorways are no different to other types of roads without hard shoulders. Motorways are a different class of road and drivers have different expectations when using them.’
However, the Civil Engineering Contactors Association backed ministers. Marie-Claude Hemming, head of external affairs, said: ‘We must ensure capacity is provided in a way that is affordable to the taxpayer.
‘But we cannot do this if saving money makes our roads unsafe. For this reason, as both the builders and users of smart motorways, we have looked at the evidence. We believe that all-lane running delivers much needed capacity in a way that secures, and even improves, the safety of the user.’
According to the committee, plans are in place to permanently convert the hard shoulder into a running lane on around 300 miles of motorway and Highways England has a programme of 30 all lane running schemes to the value of around £6bn over the next nine years.