The government has today announced that the rollout of “all lane running” smart motorways is to be paused in the UK amid safety concerns.
Following the publishing of the recent Transport Committee report, ministers from the Department for Transport (DfT) have said that schemes to convert stretches of the M3, M25, M62 and M40 into smart motorways will be held off on until “five years’ worth of safety data are available”.
Where work is already underway, a £390 million retrofit programme will instead see additional emergency refuge areas and Stopped Vehicle Detection technology installed where possible.
The decision to halt the controversial rollout follows a recommendation by the Commons Transport Select Committee – which highlighted that there wasn’t enough safety and economic data to justify continuing with the project.
In the review of smart motorways commissioned by transport secretary, Grant Shapps, in March 2020, the government said dynamic smart motorways were confusing and should be phased out in favour of all-lane running – which would remove the hard shoulder permanently – but MPs on the Transport Committee said that the decision was “premature” and based on insufficient evidence.
The report urged the government to instead “consider alternative options for enhancing capacity” on motorways.
Smart motorways – which were first introduced in England in 2014 to increase road capacity and manage traffic by converting the hard shoulder to a live running lane – have been heavily criticised by safety campaigners and MPs alike, with concerns voiced following a growing number of fatal incidents involving broken-down vehicles on smart motorways being hit from behind.
Most-notably, demonstrators carried 38 cardboard coffins to the Houses of Parliament last November 2021 in protest over the government’s initial motorway plan, 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.
Claire Mercer – whose husband, Jason, died on a smart motorway stretch of the M1 in June 2019 – is one of the most prominent campaigners for the abolishment of smart motorways entirely, and is the founder of the Smart Motorways Kill campaign group.
Ms Mercer says her husband would still be alive had there been a hard shoulder, and has said that “none of this is enough”.
She wants to see hard shoulders brought back in every instance.
Speaking on the decision to pause the smart motorway rollout for five years, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “While our initial data shows that smart motorways are among the safest roads in the UK, it’s crucial that we go further to ensure people feel safer using them [and] pausing schemes yet to start construction and making multimillion-pound improvements to existing schemes will give drivers confidence and provide the data we need to inform our next steps.”
He added: “During the pause, we will continue to make sure all existing ALR smart motorways are equipped with best-in-class technology and resources and are as safe as they can possibly be.”
Tory MP Huw Merriman – who chairs the Commons Transport Select Committee – added: “It was clear to our committee that the public needs more reassurance that these motorways are safe to use.
“With conflicting and patchy evidence covering a limited number of years, more time was required to properly assess the impact on safety.”
Labour’s shadow transport secretary, Louise Haigh, said ministers were “wrong to press ahead” with smart motorways when “the strong evidence warned against it,” and added that “smart motorways in their current form, coupled with inadequate safety systems, are not fit for purpose and are putting lives at risk.”
“Today’s announcement is a welcome step,” she admitted.
“But Ministers should go one step further and reinstate the hard shoulder while this safety work and the accompanying review of the evidence takes place.”
Police appeal for information regarding ‘serious assault’ around Old Trafford before United game in October
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) are appealing for fresh information on a “serious assault” committed around the Old Trafford area earlier this year.
GMP issued a press release on Friday, 9 December, asking for members of the public to come forward and share any details they might have on the attack carried along Seymour Grove in Trafford around 1:30pm on 16 October 2022.
They go on to explain that “a man in his 20s was assaulted by a group of unknown males” on the way to the game at Old Trafford, adding that “it is believed that the suspects were also attending the Manchester United vs Newcastle United match.”
It remains unclear whether or not the assailants were travelling fans in town to support the away side but GMP are looking to speak to the men pictured as they may be able to help with enquiries.
As detailed in the statement, “the victim suffered a severely broken jaw, a broken nose, numerous cuts to the face, and damage to the nerves of four teeth which he is likely to need further medical treatment for.” Terrible stuff.
The authorities are continuing to investigate the Seymour Grove assault after having followed up on a number of lines of enquiry since the incident took place and are now asking for the public’s help.
Anyone with information, or anyone who may have footage/images, or can identify the men in the photos, can contact Greater Manchester Police on 101, quoting log number 1589 on 16/10/22; or, alternatively use the Live Chat service HERE.
Alternatively, information can be shared anonymously via the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Featured Image — Greater Manchester Police/David Dixon (via Geograph)
Football fans call out ‘tone-deaf’ FA TikTok for mocking ‘life-threatening’ head injury
Football fans are calling out the official FA Cup TikTok account for mocking a serious head injury suffered by a Stockport County player earlier this week.
The Hatters beat Charlton Athletic in fine fashion with a 3-1 victory on Wednesday, 7 December, with Will Collar’s hattrick (the club’s first since 2019) sending them through to the next round of the cup.
However, another notable moment from the night was right back Macauley Southam-Hales’ collision with advertising hoarders after a shove from Charlton captain George Dobson.
As the likes of County fan Joel Ward wrote on Twitter, many online were quick to slam the clip for joking about an injury that hospitalised the player, the consensus being that it isn’t a “great look” for the FA.
While many reacting in the comments recognised that Dobson didn’t intend to hurt Southam-Hales by shepherding the ball out of play, the Stockport defender does hit the predominantly metal structure with some force and was left in clear discomfort following the smash.
The video itself has since been removed from the official account following the backlash but people are still reacting as the clip continues to be reshared on social media.
The clip was branded as everything from “disgusting” and “disgraceful” to “simply unbelievable”.
What’s most concerning is that despite the recent push to promote awareness surrounding concussions, brain trauma and even heading the ball – which, historically, haven’t been properly monitored in football – whoever posted the video on behalf of the FA didn’t consider the very serious nature of the incident.
As alluded to above, perhaps what makes the post even more shocking and tone-deaf is that it comes just weeks after Bath City player forward Alex Fletcher was placed in intensive care following an almost identical accident.
The 23-year-old underwent life-saving brain surgery and although he has since been discharged from the hospital, he is said to have a “long road to recovery ahead of him”.
County confirmed that despite being the all-clear pitchside, Southam-Hales was taken to the hospital as a precaution after he suffered significant swelling around the neck area. Nevertheless, as we know all too well, it could have been much worse.
As for the FA, they have now apologised for the inappropriate attempt at humour, confirming that they have removed the video from all official accounts, admitting that “it should never have been published and assuring that they will “review [their] processes to ensure this never happens again.”
You can watch the full highlights from Stockport County vs Charlton Athletic HERE but we’d recommend you watch Alan Shearer reminding everyone who plays football to be more vigilant when it comes to head injuries.