All lane running Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

1.Given the major change between All Lane Running and that of previous Smart Motorway schemes, the Department is wrong to present this as merely an uncontroversial, incremental step or the logical extension of what has gone before. The permanent loss of the hard shoulder is a radical change and the Department should present it as such. (Paragraph 12)

2.Overall, we conclude that there are journey time and reliability improvements of All Lane Running, and our concern is that the risks arising from converting the hard shoulder into a running lane are an unacceptable price to pay for such improvements. (Paragraph 22)

3.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. (Paragraph 26)

4.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. (Paragraph 33)

5.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. (Paragraph 35)

6.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. (Paragraph 37)

7.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. (Paragraph 41)

8.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. (Paragraph 45)

9.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. (Paragraph 48)

10.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. (Paragraph 49)

11.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. (Paragraph 60)

12.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. (Paragraph 68)

13.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. (Paragraph 70)

14.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. (Paragraph 71)

15.We do not support the deployment of all lane running. Given that Highways England’s own risk assessments show that other forms of smart motorway are safer than All Lane Running, and still improve capacity, we recommend the design of the M42 Active Traffic Management pilot, or, less preferably, Dynamic Hard Shoulder Running as safer alternatives. The cost saving of All Lane Running cannot justify the increase in risk of certain hazards. (Paragraph 77)

16.The Department would do well to decouple its thinking, and not assume that the loss of the hard shoulder is essential for the installation of a controlled environment. The “smart” in smart motorways does not come from the loss of the hard shoulder, but for motorists this is undeniably the most disturbing aspect of the changes. It could be seen as disingenuous to present this change as part and parcel of “smart” motorways. The Department cannot use a reduction in risk in some hazards to justify an increase in risk in others. (Paragraph 78)

17.It is not justifiable for the Department to go ahead with a major motorway programme with only one year’s worth of safety information from the specific design that they have chosen. The All Lane Running design has been chosen on the basis of cost savings, and it is not acceptable for the Department to proceed with a less-safe design, putting people’s lives at risk, in order to cut costs. (Paragraph 79)

18.We recommend an immediate halt to the rollout of All Lane Running, and that the proposed schemes be replaced by schemes based on the M42 Active Traffic Management design. That is, a design incorporating the temporary use of the hard shoulder as required, gantries spaced at a distance of 500–800 metres, and emergency refuge areas spaced at the same distance. (Paragraph 80)

© Parliamentary copyright 2015

15 June 2016