Transport Secretary Lambasts Smart Motorways

Thu 4th Feb 2021

The UK Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has questioned whether ‘smart motorway’ is an appropriate title for the controversial road systems, but has refused to commit to scrapping them.

Speaking to a transport committee of MPs, Shapps was asked whether the smart motorways, which can often have no hard shoulder, will continue in the UK.

Shapps said: “A lot of people say just undo it, and I've looked at that and it would require the equivalent of land of 700 Wembley stadium-sized football pitches to somehow undo all of this and we'd have to buy people's homes, destroy acres of Green Belt - I don't see that there's a route through to simply undo it. We've got to make what's there safe.

“I don't want to carry on with what we've seen of smart motorways, the system I've inherited...I wouldn't have gone about it like this, and I don't approve of the fact that emergency areas were being spaced way too far apart.

“I've said they have to be ideally three-quarters of a mile apart, no more than a mile, and I've ordered Highways England to get on with it.”

The controversial roads have grabbed headlines recently, when a coroner in Yorkshire said smart motorways present an ‘ongoing risk of future deaths’ following the deaths of two deaths who were killed on the M1 near Sheffield.

Despite these comments, Shapps has admitted that the policy on smart motorways is unlikely to change.

“I'm not sure it would be desirable [to reverse them] given the death rates are higher on conventional motorways, so you would be essentially doing so going against the evidence, which would be the wrong thing to do,” the Transport Secretary said.

“I think the right thing to do is put all these additional [safety] measures in place...why these things were ever called smart motorways when they seem to be anything but, I think was a misnomer.

“So I'm not going to build things called smart motorways, but I want all of our motorways to be a lot better, a lot safer.”