South Yorkshire’s top police officer has been accused of ‘peddling nonsense’ over claims lives will be lost if the M1 hard shoulder is used as an extra lane.
Robert Goodwill, roads minister, challenged Chief Constable David Crompton’s concerns ahead of a meeting yesterday with Chief Inspector Stuart Walne, South Yorkshire Police head of roads policing, and Meg Munn, Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley.
Mr Crompton raised his fears in a letter to the minister, in which he said he feared more fatalities on the M1 if the stretch between Junction 32 at Thurcroft and Junction 35A at High Green, Sheffield, is widened.
Mr Crompton is concerned emergency vehicles will get caught in congestion if the hard shoulder turned into an additional lane – claiming it could put valuable minutes onto response times.
The Department for Transport has rejected his fears.
Mr Goodwill said: “Our motorways are among the safest in the world and smart motorways deliver much needed additional capacity, cutting congestion by using the hard shoulder as a traffic lane and smoothing journeys through using variable speed limits.
“Existing smart motorway schemes have not only improved reliability and eased congestion, but have also improved safety – findings from the M42 pilot scheme showed accidents more than halved, with no fatal accidents in five years.
“Smart motorways are being introduced across the country and I am confident they will boost the local economy and maintain or improve road safety.
“Mr Crompton should look at the facts and stop peddling this nonsense.”
Ms Munn, who is against the hard shoulder being used 24 hours a day, said: “It is clear there is a need to reduce congestion on the motorway network at peak times, but the Highways Agency is now looking to do this at minimal cost rather than with serious investment in the infrastructure.”
Will Dowling: “I broke down on a motorcycle on the M1 where the hard shoulder was being used as a live lane. There were no street lights, it was pitch black, and there was a big kerb so I couldn’t roll up on to the grass verge. It was the scariest 15 minutes of my life until the police came and shut the lane. “My motorcycle was clipped by several lorries who obviously weren’t paying attention to the road.”
Mark Roberts: “Smart motorways require smart drivers and that isn’t going to happen. You could have 10 lanes wide and only the outer three would be used.”
Tommy Aitchison: “It sounds good until people break down or police want to pull over drivers. Where will they go?”