All lane running Contents

2Managing risk

23.The hard shoulder has never been a safe environment. Highways England told us that 8% of all fatalities on motorways occur on a hard shoulder,17 wildly disproportionate to its use. Organisations such as the Survive Group18 have long campaigned and educated for safety on the hard shoulder, acknowledging that it is not a safe environment. It is, however, a much safer environment than a live lane, even if such a lane is closed with a Red X signal. There is very little chance that a driver will be mistakenly using a traditional hard shoulder as a running lane, whereas this is a relatively common event on a lane closed with a Red X (see paragraph 38). Therefore, the mitigation measures put into place on All Lane Running must show us that they do not make the road any less safe than a traditional dual 3-lane motorway with a hard shoulder (a “D3M motorway” in motorway design terminology).

24.This requirement is the “safety objective” of All Lane Running. There are requirements for the design of roads laid out in the “Design Manual for Bridges and Roads”, one of which is that any motorway design change must have a safety objective, and it must be shown that it is likely to be achieved.19 The generic safety requirement for All Lane Running, not specific to any particular scheme, is that the average number of casualties per year or per billion vehicle miles is no worse than the safety baseline, which is a D3M motorway.20In addition, no group of people (e.g. car drivers, pedestrians, HGV drivers, and motorcyclists) can be disproportionately affected in terms of safety and the risk to each group of people must remain tolerable.

25.This safety objective can only be said to be achieved after three years of data are available. This point is acknowledged in Highways England’s written evidence, which told us that “conclusive evidence of the performance of ALR will come with three years of safety data” but they also told us that “evidence to date however gives us the confidence to proceed with our smart motorways programme”.21 When questioned about why the Department is going ahead with the rollout without three years of safety data, Andrew Jones told us that “we have had a version of active motorway road management in our system for about 20 years”.22 We do not deny this, but All Lane Running is a fundamentally different proposition, and data gathered from the temporary use of the hard shoulder during congestion should not be used to justify using one year’s worth of data. We are concerned that the London Fire Brigade have revealed that this is precisely what is being done, and that at “meetings around the country”, stakeholders are being told that “this works on the M25”23 in order to justify national rollout.

26.The fact that Smart Motorways have existed for years on the motorway does not warrant using one year’s worth of safety data on the M25 to justify to stakeholders the national roll out of All Lane Running across the country. The Department needs to present this honestly, as a radical change, and, if intent on going ahead with the deployment of All Lane Running, need to hold back until at least the safety objective of the current schemes is confirmed as having been achieved, which will be after the results of the M25 schemes through to 2017 have been assessed. We believe that a group of road users (recovery personnel) are significantly, disproportionately adversely affected.

Emergency refuge areas

27.As we have noted, the space between emergency refuge areas has increased through each Smart Motorways design, to the roughly 2,500m spacing used in All Lane Running. Refuge areas have not been co-located with gantries since the M42 Active Traffic Management pilot. Slip roads exiting the motorway at a junction are also defined as places of safety for the purpose of calculating the frequency of refuge areas, meaning that they can be used in lieu of a refuge area.

28.In 2012, Highways England produced a paper evaluating the provision of emergency refuge areas for All Lane Running.24 The paper found that “decreasing the frequency of refuge area spacing will not have a significantly detrimental impact on traffic flow, overall safety level or incident numbers”. To support this, the paper looked at the safety performance of 3-lane All Purpose Trunk Roads (APTRs), which have a worse safety performance than motorways, but already have lay-bys at a 2,500m spacing. Comparing these roads to motorways, the paper found that “the [accident and injury] rate on APTR dual 3-lane is only slightly higher than that on D3M [standard 3-lane motorways]”.25 The paper also accepted that APTRs were characterised by a more frequent accidents involving vehicles leaving the carriageway, when compared to motorways with a hard shoulder. While the increase in risk is modest, it is still an increase, and this increase has to be shown to be an acceptable price to pay.

29.A number of witnesses we spoke to expressed support for an increase in emergency refuge areas, not only because they are scarce but also because too many drivers are using the areas outside of emergencies. The RAC and AA gave their support for more frequent refuge areas,26 as did Dave Allen of Prospect, representing Highways England Traffic Officers.27 In written evidence, the Metropolitan Police Service called the design and spacing of emergency refuge areas “inadequate”.28 Dave Gregory, representing vehicle recovery operators, called the spacing a “poor man’s version of the M42” and that recovery operators were “very concerned”.29

30.The 2012 evaluation on the spacing of emergency refuge areas was based on the presumption that there would not be a high level of emergency refuge area misuse. However, this is not the case in the M25 schemes’ 12 month evaluation reports. Across 220 hours of ERA monitoring on the J5–7 scheme, 81% of stops were found to be non-emergencies, rising to 85% on the J23–27 scheme (across 774 hours).30 Particularly concerning was the proportion of HGVs misusing emergency refuge areas. 96% of stops by HGVs on the J23–27 scheme were not an emergency, as shown by the driver leaving the refuge area without leaving the vehicle, or taking a comfort break. Combined with scarce spacing, this level of misuse increases the likelihood that an area will not be available in the event of a genuine emergency.

31.Roughly half of all breakdowns studied on the J23–27 scheme did not reach a refuge area.31 We were told by Prospect that “the reality is that whilst many vehicles are capable of this, motorists tend to simply halt the vehicle in lane”.32 This was echoed by Edmund King, who told that Committee that he thought that if people could not see an ERA, they would not continue driving until they found one even if their vehicle was capable of doing so.33 The RAC conducted a survey of its members, and found that only 28% of those who have broken down on All Lane Running sections of motorway could see an emergency refuge area.34 The AA also conducted a survey of almost 20,000 of its members, finding that 41% would stop as safely as possible as soon as they could, trying to move to the nearside, if they broke down on a section of All Lane Running motorway.35 The level of breakdowns not reaching a refuge area is particularly concerning when one considers that both the AA and the RAC, dominant figures in the breakdown recovery industry, will not attend breakdowns in a live lane, even if that lane is closed with a Red X, unless there is a physical barrier.36 As Prospect told us in written evidence, this can lead to a statutory recovery being used, where regulatory powers are used to remove the vehicle from the highway at the driver’s expense.37 In a written answer to a parliamentary question, the Department for Transport confirmed that there were 592 incidents involving recovery on the sections of motorway using All Lane Running in 2015.38 This was the highest number of incidents involving recovery since Highways England took on Traffic Officer duties in 2007.

32.In their written evidence, Highways England argue that “ALR eliminates non-emergency hard shoulder stops and provides opportunities for drivers to stop off the carriageway in dedicated refuge areas”.39 This statement is meaningless—non-emergency hard shoulder stops are eliminated because there is no hard shoulder. Non-emergency ERA stops, however, are far from eliminated (see paragraph 29). David Bizley and Edmund King told us that there was a lack of understanding among overseas HGV drivers about when it is acceptable to use a refuge area, leading to their use in, for example, cases where a driver needs to make a stop to fulfil their drivers’ hours requirements.40 Edmund King said that 22% of AA members said that they “often” see HGVs stopped in emergency refuge areas.41 TRL told us that while the restrictions on use of ERAs are “well understood” according to their studies, “understanding ALR may be more challenging for those who cannot read English text”.42 This could contribute to a high level of foreign HGV drivers using ERAs outside of emergencies.

33.The level of emergency refuge area misuse is unacceptable. When combined with the scarcity of such areas, this can lead to a driver being forced to stop in a live lane in the event of a breakdown. The Department needs to set out what its target is for this level of misuse, how it will reduce this, and in what timeframe it expects this to be achieved.

34.Asked to defend the spacing of emergency refuge areas, Andrew Jones told us that “if you are driving at 60mph, [the spacing] means you are basically 75 seconds away from a refuge”.43 75 seconds is clearly a very long time to be driving a vehicle that isn’t functioning, making it more likely that a driver with limited ability to keep moving will stop in a live lane. Mike Wilson of Highways England, however, did indicate to us that Highways England was willing to look again at the spacing of refuges, and that all parts of the system are under review.44 At the spacing used in the M42 Active Traffic Management pilot (500–800m), a vehicle travelling at 60mph is no more than roughly 30 seconds away from a refuge.

35.Police forces, motoring organisations, and vehicle recovery operators are in agreement. Emergency refuge areas in All Lane Running are placed too scarcely. We were pleased to be told by Mike Wilson that Highways England were open to change on this aspect of the design. The Department should revert to emergency refuge areas spaced at 500–800m, as in the M42 Active Traffic Management pilot.

36.While the total length of emergency refuge areas is specified at 100m, this includes the length of both the entry and the exit taper. Highways England specifies a stopping area of 30m in ERAs, and motoring associations and Vehicle Recovery Operators expressed concern that this was not an adequate size. Both David Bizley of the RAC, Edmund King of the AA, and Richard Goddard cited concerns that HGVs, typically a length of up to 18.5 metres, would not leave enough space for a recovery vehicle.45 Tim Cutbill of the London Fire Brigade also pointed out that on some gradients of roads, recovery from an ERA will be even more difficult,46 telling us that this challenged the Department’s argument that the success of the M25 scheme can and should be replicated across the country. In any case, a vehicle may not be stopped at the right point of the ERA to leave any space at all, a factor that the road user may not have any control over if they stopped as a result of their vehicle breaking down. Richard Goddard, a vehicle recovery operator, expanded on this, telling us that if a coach or a very large vehicle were to break down, even if it were to reach a refuge area, there is not enough length in the refuge areas for a recovery vehicle to gain momentum, indicate, check and then move safely into a live lane.47 In some cases the recovery vehicle has to reverse from a live lane into the refuge area.

37.While the size of emergency refuge areas is the same as that used on All Purpose Trunk Road links, motorways are a different kind of road. The 30m stopping area is putting vehicle recovery operators at risk. That the design has not changed for 10 years is not a reason to maintain it if that design is inadequate. If the Department is going to press ahead with All Lane Running, the opportunity of building new refuge areas should be used to increase their size, accounting for the fact that broken-down vehicles will not necessarily stop in the optimal part of the refuge area, and that recovery operators need to be able to safely navigate into the area and have space to build up speed to safely enter a live lane. Any gain in capacity is lost if live lanes have to be closed in order to safely recover a vehicle from an ERA.

Public perception, understanding and compliance

38.As well as contributing to the level of misuse of emergency refuge areas, a poor level of communication from the Department may lead to misunderstanding of All Lane Running motorways, or a lack of confidence in their use. A number of individual respondents gave written evidence to the Committee citing their own personal disquiet with use of a motorway without a hard shoulder, citing an “increased sense of risk when travelling, especially at night”48, or that they were “terrified”49 by the concept of driving without a hard shoulder. We have already mentioned surveys performed by the AA and the RAC of their members. More general results of these surveys found that almost 10% of AA members surveyed would use the leftmost lane, even if it were closed with a Red X, and 85% agree that hard shoulders make motorways safe.50 Clearly, the former shows that there is an urgent need for the Department to improve compliance of “Red X” signals, and the latter shows that the Department has yet to win over the public in the debate on the safety of All Lane Running.

39.On Red X signals, data from the M25 evaluations have shown a shocking degree of non-compliance. Both evaluations showed 7% (quoted as 8% in oral evidence) non-compliance of these signals. An average of 4 vehicles per minute during every Red X event were recorded not complying with the signal.51 If the lane was closed due to an emergency, any one of these vehicles could have struck an obstruction in the closed lane.

40.When asked about non-compliance with Red X signals, Simon Wickenden told us that “there is clearly a need for further education”52 and that at the time of his appearance before the Committee “a total of 1,000 warning letters”53 had been sent out in relations to infractions on what is a relatively small section of motorway. This is clearly a tremendous risk, and one which needs to be addressed by both education and enforcement. When we asked Highways England and the Department about this non-compliance, Mike Wilson told us that the rate of non-compliance was “a concern” and that an educational campaign was underway.54 He subsequently wrote to the Chair, setting out that Highways England estimates they will issue “between 50,000 and 200,000 letters for red X and hard shoulder misuse offences in the financial year 2016/17”.55 While Andrew Jones did tell us that 92% is a very high level of compliance compared to speed limits, he conceded that it was “very low” compared with driving through a red light.56

41.Poor compliance with Red X signals is a grave concern that not only puts motorists at risk, but also places vehicle recovery operators, emergency services, and traffic officers in harm’s way. A non-compliance rate of 8% is unacceptable. The Department should continue to publish figures of Red X compliance on existing All Lane Running schemes (and Smart Motorway schemes more generally), and needs to show significant improvement in this area. All lane running cannot be considered to be safe with such dangerous levels of non-compliance with Red X signals.

42.The twelve-month evaluation into the M25 J23–27 scheme looked into public awareness of the scheme and its rules, and found some disparity among who was most informed. Non-local road users understood the rules of All Lane Running less than local road users, for example only 89% of non-local respondents who had used the scheme understanding that they should not stop in the “hard shoulder” when speed limits are displayed above the lane.57 The report also showed that just 27% of respondents were likely to use the former hard shoulder in any case, even if it were open.58 The report attributed this to lack of comprehension and driver uncertainty.

43.The perceptions of when it is acceptable to use an emergency refuge area are also worrying, and show a failure to communicate the rules of All Lane Running motorways to drivers, with 85% of non-local road users who had used the J23–27 scheme knowing that ERAs are provided at all. The report found that “Awareness of ERAs and their permitted usage was lowest about non-local road users who use the scheme, which as these are the most intensive users of the scheme could result in inappropriate use of ERAs”.59

44.Two awareness campaigns have been launched by the Department to inform drivers of the rules of smart motorways. The “better watch your speed” campaign focused on informing drivers that variable speed limits set on gantries were mandatory and would be enforced.60 A subsequent radio campaign informed drivers “If you see a Red X, it means the lane is closed”, which was complemented by posters which said “Never drive in a red X lane”.61 At this time, there is no published evaluation of these campaigns, although this is not unusual given the short time since their publication.

45.Regular users of the motorway may become quickly familiar with using a motorway without a hard shoulder, but the occasional user should also be considered. The low level of public awareness surrounding All Lane Running motorways is a potential safety issue. This is a major change to the motorway network, and it is unacceptable that so many drivers are not more informed about the workings of some of the busiest roads in the country. We note that the Department has launched a public awareness campaign and is monitoring its effectiveness. We recommend that, if these schemes are to go ahead, that the Department redouble its efforts to increase public awareness with further, cross-media campaigns to make road users confident of using motorways without a hard shoulder.

46.What has become clear from the written and oral evidence received, as well as by press coverage of the removal of the hard shoulder, is that the Department has not won the argument. It has not succeeded in convincing us, neither has convinced the public. We received written evidence from individuals who expressed concern about driving without a hard shoulder. Respondents said that they were “terrified”,62 that there is a “increased sense of risk”,63 or that the scheme was “dangerous” and “a quick fix with many flaws”.64 While it is true that this pool of evidence is self-selecting (those satisfied with All Lane Running are less likely to respond), these submissions can also be compared to the Government’s own assessment into the M25 J23–27 scheme. As shown in Figure 3, 28% of all drivers felt less safe using the scheme since All Lane Running. The assessment presented it as a success that “more drivers disagreed than agreed that they felt less safe using the scheme section except disabled drivers”. It is unclear how 28% of drivers feeling less safe, rising to a third or more in specific groups, is anything other than a major concern.

Figure 3: Drivers feeling more safe/less safe using the M25 J23–27 section since All Lane Running.65

Source: Highways England, M25 J23–27 Twelve Month evaluation report, January 2016, p 42

47.The AA has also conducted a number of AA-Populus Motoring Panel polls among their members, to gauge the reaction to this policy. In these polls, 59% of drivers said that they will be more nervous driving on a motorway without a hard shoulder, and 85% agreed that hard shoulders help to make motorways safe.66

48.If All Lane Running schemes are to go ahead, it is up to the Department to win the argument by addressing public fears. Regardless of whether the Department accepts our argument that the safety case is flawed, the public perception of the safety of All Lane Running sections of motorway should worry the Department. The existing publicity campaigns, which focus on teaching the rules of Smart Motorways, do not address this perception. We are concerned that a perceived lack of safety could make people avoid sections of motorway where All Lane Running is in operation, or feel unduly stressed when they do use them.

49.In evaluating the success of its public awareness campaigns, Highways England should consider the reach and exposure of such campaigns in different groups, including disabled, elderly, novice, or drivers of any gender. Drivers are not homogenous and the campaigns should also be assessed on whether those being reached are assured that the new motorways are safe to drive on.

50.While there is a statutory requirement for a consultation when installing Variable Mandatory Speed Limits, there is no such requirement for consulting on All Lane Running as a whole. When a scheme is put into place, a consultation on the installation of Variable Mandatory Speed Limits is conducted in line with statutory requirements. This was the only part of the scheme that the consultation concluded on; there has been no public consultation on All Lane Running as a whole. A number of respondents to the M25 J23–27 scheme consultation expressed concern over All Lane Running, including the Alliance of British Drivers, the Metropolitan Police Service, and some individual respondents. Despite this, because the consultation was, as per the statutory requirements, only consulting on the installation of VMSLs, the consultation recommended that the scheme continued. Only 56% of respondents to the consultation were supportive of the scheme, but those against were dismissed by the then-Highways Agency, as “the majority of the consultation responses expressed concerns on the workings of the Managed Motorway system rather than the introduction of the [VMSLs]”.67

51.The lack of consultation was mentioned by a number of witnesses. The AA called it “surprising” that “such a far reaching change” was pursued without formal consultation at any stage, and that “whilst the agency was open to discussion its policy decision had been made”.68 David Bizley said that while there were discussions, they “were more about how to make the best of the design” rather than consulting on whether the design should be implemented at all.69 Simon Wickenden of the Metropolitan Police Service also told us that when they were consulted, the design was presented as “analysis complete”.70

Highways England GD04 risk assessment

52.Jon Griffiths told us that “the overall risk” to road users is down.71 This is based on the assessment performed by Mouchel Consulting on behalf of Highways England.72 These “GD04” assessments are a requirement, the standard for which is set out in the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges. The assessment came to the conclusion that All Lane Running is likely to meet its safety objective both for all users and for a number of specific groups, including private recovery organisations and emergency services.

53.According to the assessment, the risk of a vehicle stopping in a running lane is the most dramatically increased risk, increasing by 216%. Currently, this event comprises 1.6% of all fatal and serious injury accidents. Mike Wilson told the Committee that “of the 136 hazards we looked at, the risk associated with stopping in a live lane in low-flow conditions has increased by 200%, but that risk makes up only 5% of the total risks associated with the operation”.73 We question whether it is acceptable for any particular event to triple in risk, especially where such a risk may result in a fatal accident, as low-flow conditions are often at night. This tripling of the risk is unacceptable for recovery operators and explains why the RAC and AA will not attend live lane recoveries without an impact vehicle.

54.We heard from Simon Wickenden from the Metropolitan Police Service of a particular incident where a car which had apparently stopped in a live lane during the night was struck by another vehicle, on an unlit section of motorway using All Lane Running, and that the Metropolitan Police Service believe it had run out of fuel.74 As the MIDAS system cannot detect lone vehicles stopped in a lane, the vehicle was not detected. While there is CCTV coverage, it is not possible for all sections of the motorway to be observed at all times. This was a fatal accident. It was, and remains, a live investigation, and further details of the collision may still come to light. From what is already known and in the public domain, this may have been the result of a combination of risk factors, exacerbated by the lack of a hard shoulder. This is precisely the kind of incident that has, by the Government’s own risk assessment, been made more likely as a result of the implementation of All Lane Running.

55.We accept that other types of risk have been mitigated through the use of the controlled environment. For example, the second highest risk hazard,75 “Individual vehicle is driven too fast”, has been reduced by 42%, which the report indicates is due to “considerable benefit from the controlled environment”.76 The reductions in risk from the introduction of MIDAS, CCTV coverage and enforcement, and Variable Mandatory Speed Limits are laudable.

56.Decreasing risk in one area does not justify an increase in risk elsewhere. The concept of “overall risk” becomes arbitrary in a system made up of independent factors, especially where the cause of the reductions and the increases in risk are disconnected. As we have set out, it is not necessary to package the loss of the hard shoulder with the controlled environments afforded by smart motorways. In Table 2 below, we consider these two actions separately, and by auditing the risk assessment.

57.Risks in the Highways England assessment that are attributable to the loss of the hard shoulder have been placed in the left column, and those attributable to the installation of the controlled environment (Variable Mandatory Speed Limits, MIDAS, and the ability to close individual lanes) have been placed in the right column. These are two unrelated actions, packaged together artificially to create All Lane Running. By separating them, we can see that the Department is using an action that results in a net decrease in risk (the installation of the controlled environment) in order to justify an action that results in a net increase in risk (the permanent loss of the hard shoulder). The full analysis of whether a risk is attributable to one action or the other can be found in the annex to this report.

Table 2: High and medium-scoring hazards changed77 by All Lane Running, separated by those related to losing the hard shoulder and those related to the controlled environment

Hazard score and change

Hard shoulder loss

Controlled environment

High-scoring, increase



Medium scoring, increase



All increase



High-scoring, decrease



Medium-scoring, decrease



All decrease



High-scoring, eliminated



Medium-scoring, eliminated



All eliminated



High-scoring, new hazard



Medium-scoring, new hazard



All new hazard



Source: Highways England, Smart Motorways All Lane Running GD04 assessment report, August 2015

58.The majority of “eliminated” and some of the “new” hazards are arguably reclassifications rather than genuine change. The medium hazard shown as having been eliminated due to the loss of the hard shoulder is H148, “Roadworks—short term static on hard shoulder”. This is eliminated because there is no hard shoulder. But hazard H80, “Roadworks—short term static” has increased by 99% due to the increase in the amount of road side infrastructure being installed, such as gantries which need regular maintenance. However, this one-for-one exchange is not the case for all new hazards. For example, the new medium-scoring hazards “Vehicle misjudges entry to ERA”, as well as the hazards of vehicles of all kinds leaving an ERA, cannot be compared to the hazards of a vehicle leaving the hard shoulder due to the significantly smaller distance to accelerate on an ERA. This was of particular concern to vehicle recovery operators, who told us that the dangers of long vehicles in a refuge area were mentioned in consultations, but no changes were made.78 Richard Goddard also outlined a possible situation where these types of risk would be particularly dangerous, where “somebody has ignored the red cross [ … ] or there is fog”,79 and that in such a situation the lack of ability for a recovery vehicle to gain speed, possibly while laden with a broken-down vehicle, makes this kind of new hazard particularly dangerous.

59.Analysing the installation of the controlled environment and the loss of the hard shoulder as two separate actions, rather than the package that the Department has presented them in, a stark picture emerges. The loss of the hard shoulder is responsible for a net increase in risk in existing hazards and a net increase in newly introduced hazards, and the installation of the controlled environment is responsible for a net decrease.

60.We find that the way that the Department has presented the risks of All Lane Running is disingenuous. The increase in risk caused by the loss of the hard shoulder is not an unfortunate, necessary cost of installing the controlled environment. The two acts are not intrinsically connected. By packaging the two together, the Department has been able to say that “overall risk”, an arbitrary concept, has not increased. The Department cannot decrease the risk of some hazards in order to justify an increase in the risk of other hazards.

61.The Department’s assessment of the risks of various carriageway configurations found that the M42 Active Traffic Management pilot had a significantly smaller risk profile than any other configuration, including a normal D3M motorway. This is shown in Figure 4. By choosing to disregard this design, and only aiming for a safety baseline of a standard D3M motorway, the Department is actively choosing a less safe option.

Figure 4: Comparison of risk for different carriageway configurations

Source: Highways Agency, Managed motorways Fact Sheet, 2013

Emergency services

62.Without the hard shoulder, emergency services must either continue through the carriageway in the direction of traffic, or make use of the “reverse flow access” procedure in order to reach incidents. During reverse flow access, the motorway will be closed to all traffic and emergency services enter the carriageway from a later junction, driving against the flow of traffic. It is vital that this procedure has the full confidence of the emergency services.

63.The London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority called reverse flow access “time consuming and relatively complicated”.80 In particular, they cited concerns regarding the communication protocols between the London Fire Brigade (LFB) and Highways England. In oral evidence, the LFB expanded on this, and we were told that there is not currently a system in place to “satisfactorily” pass information about the incident between fire appliances at the incident and control rooms.81

64.On reverse flow access, the Metropolitan Police Service told us that “experience to date, confirmed by the M25 live exercise, has demonstrated the risk that such operations entail, a risk which proportionally increases as the distance between junctions or turnaround / access points increases”.82 Simon Wickenden told us that reverse flow access cannot be initiated “until we have an individual actually on the scene who is able to stop all further traffic from passing that point”,83 and that if an incident is more serious, and it takes longer to get emergency service traffic to it in the direction of the flow of traffic, this could seriously delay response time. On the M4 there are stretches of motorway up to 15 miles between junctions, which he told us was “much too far” to safely initiate reverse flow access.84

65.The Metropolitan Police Service also told us that the “removal of street lighting on links between junctions” was “an aspect of ALR that we have particularly objected to from the start”.85 It is true that a great many parts of the Strategic Road Network are unlit already, and while the bulk of the M25 was constructed with street lighting, this is not the case on all motorways. We were told that Highways England told the Metropolitan Police Service that the funds for constructing street lighting would be better used elsewhere.86 When these concerns were put to Mike Wilson, we were told that the policy for All Lane Running is no different from the rest of the network, and that lighting is considered on a case-by-case basis.87 While the policy may be the same, if it has led to lighting being removed, as stated by the Metropolitan Police Service, this has unnecessarily introduced risk for the sake of cost savings.

66.The Central Motorway Police Group88 broadly welcomed the benefits afforded by the controlled environment, particularly the enforcement technology, as well as seeing the benefits to motorway capacity and journey reliability. However, they also told us that “the spacing of gantries and distance between emergency refuge areas is significantly different to earlier schemes, which is a cause for concern”.89

67.The Central Motorway Police Group also pointed out other impacts of removing the hard shoulder on policing activities, telling us that “it is now increasingly difficult to find a safety location to stop a motorist for either a traffic offence or to assist in the investigation of a criminal matter”,90 a concern that was echoed by the Metropolitan Police Service, and that the removal of the hard shoulder makes “what was a perfect environment to employ Tactical Pursuit and Containment (TPAC) tactics during pursuits all the more difficult”.91

68.The permanent conversion of the hard shoulder into a running lane has unnecessarily introduced risks and operational barriers to roads policing activities on motorways. Maintaining the hard shoulder, as in the M42 Active Traffic Management pilot, would mitigate these risks and barriers while still significantly improving capacity.

Highways England Traffic Officers

69.Prospect, the trade union representing Highways England Traffic Officers, gave evidence, focusing on the health and safety implications for traffic officers working on motorways without a hard shoulder. Dave Allen of Prospect told the Committee that there were 600 near misses reported by traffic officers while they were out on active duty, and emphasised that this does not include near misses that have occurred which only involve members of the public.92

70.In contrast to other respondents, Neil Turner (a serving Highways England Traffic Officer) said that All Lane Running was a safer alternative to Dynamic Hard Shoulder Running (including the M42 pilot). He explained that there is an inherent uncertainty in dynamic schemes over whether or not the hard shoulder is being used as a running lane; in All Lane Running it is certain that Lane 1 (the former hard shoulder) is open for traffic unless shown otherwise.93 We think that this is an issue which should be addressed by increased education and enforcement. Violation of a closed lane is an issue across all designs of Smart Motorway; we do not conclude that the problem would be any better if all Smart Motorway designs were using All Lane Running and, as stated elsewhere, this would mean the permanent loss of the hard shoulder in all schemes, which we oppose.

71.When questioned on the safety of Traffic Officers, Mike Wilson linked the level of near misses reported by Traffic Officers to the non-compliance of Red X signals, and told us that the rate of near misses has decreased by 15% since the start of the operation of smart motorways.94Highways staff working on motorways, for example putting out cones, have impact vehicle protection. No impact protection is used routinely when vehicles are stranded in live lanes. We have also been told by the recovery industry of concerns about traffic officers using 4x4 vehicles to recover HGVs.95 It is clear that the issues of Traffic Officer safety and Red X compliance are linked. The Department needs to use all of the three Es—education, enforcement and engineering—to eliminate non-compliance. Penalties for non-compliance should reflect the risk of death or serious injury, driver education courses and public awareness campaigns should explain the dangers, and radar systems used to detect static vehicles should be used to detect moving traffic in closed lanes so that workers can be warned. A better system of coordination and communication will be needed to safeguard the lives of those working on the motorway. The Department must take steps to improve compliance with signals. With 7–8% non-compliance, Traffic Officers are being put at significant risk of death or serious injury.

17 Highways England (ALR0011), para 3.7

18 A partnership between the police, vehicle recovery operators, and Highways England

20 This is calculated by use of “Fatal and Weighted injuries”, in which a serious injury is counted as 1/10th of a fatality, and a slight injury is counted as 1/100th of a fatal injury; Highways England, Smart motorways all lane running GD04 assessment report, p 17

21 Highways England (ALR0011), para 1.9

22 Q121 [Andrew Jones]

23 Q62 [Tim Cutbill]

26 Q2 [Edmund King]; Q3 [David Bizley]

27 Q77 [Dave Allen]

28 Metropolitan Police Service (ALR0023)

29 Q88 [Dave Gregory]

30 Highways England, M25 J23–27 Twelve Month Evaluation Report, January 2016, p 29; Highways England, M25 J5–7 Twelve Month Evaluation Report, January 2016, p. 26

31 Highways England (ALR0011), para 6.2

32 Prospect (ALR0010)

33 Q2 [Edmund King]

34 RAC (ALR0006)

35 Automobile Association (ALR0012)

36 Q19 [David Bizley, Edmund King]

37 Prospect (ALR0010)

38 Motorways: Accidents: Written question - 31894

39 Highways England (ALR0011)

40 Q20 [David Bizley, Edmund King]

41 Q20 [Edmund King]

42 TRL (ALR0018)

43 Q129 [Andrew Jones]

44 Q140 [Mike Wilson]

45 Q2 [Edmund King]; Q20 [David Bizley]; Q103 [Dave Gregory]

46 Q62 [Tim Cutbill]

47 Q103 [Richard Goddard]

48 Greg Bains (ALR0001)

49 Mrs Mary Tomlinson (ALR0027)

50 Automobile Association (ALR0012)

51 Highways England, M25 J23–27 Twelve Month Evaluation Report, January 2016, p 62; Highways England, M25 J5–7 Twelve Month Evaluation Report, January 2016, p 48

52 Q53 [Simon Wickenden]

53 Q53 [Simon Wickenden]

54 Q157; Q159 [Mike Wilson]

55 Letter from Mike Wilson to Louise Ellman MP dated 1 June 2016

56 Q162-3 [Andrew Jones]

57 Highways England, M25 J23-27 Twelve Month evaluation report, January 2016, p 38

58 Highways England, M25 J23-27 Twelve Month evaluation report, January 2016, p 40

59 Highways England, M25 J23-27 Twelve Month evaluation report, January 2016, p 39

60 Highways England, “Smart Motorways: better watch your speed campaign”,, July 2015

61 Highways England, “How to drive on a smart motorway”,, April 2016

62 Mrs Mary Tomlinson (ALR0027)

63 Greg Bains (ALR0001)

64 Chris Mitchell (ALR0002)

66 Automobile Association (ALR0012)

68 Automobile Association (ALR0012)

69 Q6 [David Bizley]

70 Q59 [Simon Wickenden]

71 Q137 [Jon Griffiths]

73 Q137 [Mike Wilson]

74 Q26 [Simon Wickenden]

75 The highest risk hazard is unchanged, and is related to fatigued drivers being unable to perceive hazards effectively.

77 A number of risks were unchanged. Only risks changed are included in this table.

78 Q100 [Dave Gregory]

79 Q103 [Richard Goddard]

80 London Fire and Emergency planning Authority (LFEPA) (ALR0026)

81 Q35 [David Bulbrook]

82 Metropolitan Police Service (ALR0023), para 9.5

83 Q40 [Simon Wickenden]

84 Q40 [Simon Wickenden]

85 Metropolitan Police Service (ALR0023)

86 Q57 [Simon Wickenden]

87 Q200 [Mike Wilson]

88 Central Motorway Police Group (ALR0021)

89 Central Motorway Police Group (ALR0021)

90 Central Motorway Police Group (ALR0021)

91 Central Motorway Police Group (ALR0021)

92 Q67 [Dave Allen]

93 Q69 [Neil Turner]

94 Q158 [Mike Wilson]

95 Association of Vehicle Recovery Operators Ltd. (AVRO) (ALR0030)

© Parliamentary copyright 2015

15 June 2016