MPs and campaigners are calling for the rollout of smart motorways across the UK to be halted over safety fears.
The UK government is planning to remove the hard shoulder from all future smart motorways and use the lane for live traffic are “premature”, a report from Commons Transport Select Committee (TSC) has said – but a cross-party group of MPs has called for a suspension on the rollout of these digital traffic management methods.
Campaigners have long argued that the scrapping of hard shoulders has put drivers at greater risk of accidents.
They have condemned what they call “death trap highways”.
In the TSC’s new report, MPs said the government has failed to deliver on promises to bring in safety improvements to stretches of smart motorway and said it was time to stop any further rollout of smart motorways until five years of safety data is available and improvements can be independently evaluated.
Demonstrators carried 38 cardboard coffins to the Houses of Parliament on Monday in protest over the government’s motorway plan – which was first announced in March last year – with each coffin representing one of the people officially listed as being killed on smart motorways between 2014 and 2019.
Around 53 people are thought to have died on smart motorways since 2014.
At least four coroners cited the lack of hard shoulder as playing a significant part in the road deaths they were investigating.
The Department for Transport (DfT) and Highways England promised safety improvements on these sections of road, but the MPs report concluded that those steps do not fully address the risks associated with the removal of the hard shoulder.
The TSC urged ministers to “consider alternative options for enhancing capacity” on motorways.
It is calling on the government to install controlled smart motorways, instead of all-lane running motorways.
Controlled smart motorways have a permanent hard shoulder, use technology to regulate traffic, and have the “lowest casualty rates” of all roads across motorways and major A roads in England.
The TSC’s report said: “The government and National Highways should pause the rollout of new all-lane running schemes until five years of safety and economic data is available for every all-lane running scheme introduced before 2020 and the implementation of the safety improvements in the government’s action plan has been independently evaluated.”
Claire Mercer – whose husband, Jason, died on a smart motorway stretch of the M1 in June 2019 – welcomed the recommendation the rollout be paused, adding: “That will give us more time to get into the High Court and get these banned anyway”.
She added: “There’s a really strong feeling against these [and] we need to embarrass the government into actually doing something.
“We don’t need a raft of changes.
“We just need the hard shoulder back in every single instance.”
An additional 300 miles of smart motorways without hard shoulders could be rolled out across England by 2025.
Featured Image – Wikimedia Commons
Sir David Jason set for TV return in Only Fools and Horses documentary Christmas special
In a surprise bit of festive news, the only and only Sir David Jason is returning for an Only Fools and Horses Christmas special this December. Lovely jubbly!
The best-loved and most-watched British comedy of all time will be back on our screens in documentary form this festive season, with Del Boy himself David Jason revisiting the iconic comedy character after 20 years he last played him on screen.
While the legendary sitcom was broadcast on BBC back in the day, the highly-anticipated Only Fools doc will be airing on Channel 5 right before Christmas as a special one-off programme.
Looking back on the show’s incredible run on UK screens over seven series and the several ‘Christmas Cracker’ specials, specifically, the latest Only Fools and Horses documentary will see Jason and a number of other guests appearing to chat about the legendary show.
While it’s still unclear how many of the original cast will be appearing, Jason’s on-screen wife Tessa Peake-Jones (Raquel) is confirmed to be appearing along with other special guests including newscaster Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Bendiorm‘s Sherrie Hewson.
Sadly, a full theatrical reunion just isn’t on the cards following the deaths of Roger Lloyd Pack (Trigger), Kenneth MacDonald (Mike the Landlord) and Buster Merryfield (Uncle Albert) in the 30 years since the show ended its run.
Only Fools writer John Sullivan also sadly passed away aged 64 in 2011 and fellow co-star Nicholas Lyndhurst, a.k.a. Rodney Trotter, told Metro: “We can’t. John is no longer with us. John was the driving force of the show and we have also lost quite a few cast members now.
“I don’t think I could do it without them and I certainly couldn’t do it without John. At the risk of depressing everyone, I think the last two times I’ve seen David has been at funerals.”
Simply entitled, ‘The Story Of Only Fools And Horses At Christmas’, the 90-minute special is yet to have its broadcast date fully confirmed but you best keep your eyes peeled on the TV guide — we’ll let you know as soon we do.
Jason, 81, has only just recovered from hip surgery earlier this year, so it’ll be nice to see his familiar grin back on our screens.
Right, we’re off to binge a whole series on UK Gold.
Habas restaurant in Manchester announces shock closure – with huge closing-down discount
Habas, the Middle Eastern restaurant launched by the team behind El Gato Negro, has announced its shock closure.
The subterranean restaurant will be going out with a bang though, promising one last knees-up with a big discount.
Habas will be doing 25% off its entire food and drink menu this New Year’s Eve so that fans of the eatery can raise a glass to the Manchester restaurant.
They’re also hoping that Mancs will raise a glass to new beginnings, teasing a brand new concept.
Habas is located at Brown Street in Manchester city centre and has been serving up its Middle Eastern menu since 2021.
It comes from Mills Hill Developments Limited, the company also responsible for El Gato Negro and Canto, fronted by celebrated chef Simon Shaw.
Habas has stressed that its closure ‘is not forever’ as it announces details of its New Year’s Eve closing down party.
You can ring in the new year with a selection of mezze dishes, sharing platters and small plates, feasting on chicken tagine and traditional tzatziki, all 25% off on Sunday 31 December.
Drinks, too, like the cranberry elderflower martini, blackberry ginger smash and clementine daquiri will be with 25% off.
Simon Shaw, Chef Parton at Mills Hill Developments Limited, said: “As of January 2024, we have made the decision to close the doors of Habas Bar & Restaurant, however we are thrilled to announce that our Brown Street venue has an exciting new concept on the way.
“Throughout December, Habas, will continue serving up the city’s best middle-eastern cuisine, so make sure you pop in and see us. AND on New Year’s Eve, Habas, will be hosting an unforgettable celebration with 25% off food and drinks. We want to rejoice with all of our customers, with one final hurrah!
“We would like to thank all of our guests and reassure Habas fans that this is not the end of Habas Bar & Restaurant forever, simply a farewell from Brown Street for now.
“We look forward to welcoming you to our new exciting concept in Q1 of 2024.”