My first ever Question as the elected MP for Luton North highlighted safety issues with smart motorways following a series of tragic deaths along the Luton stretch of the M1.
A survey I conducted in the first few months of being elected showed that 93% of road users would support halting the creation of smart motorways.
What are ‘smart’ motorways?
Smart motorways are designed to ease congestion by allowing the use of the hard shoulder as an extra lane. Overhead signs display variable speed limits in addition to whether the hard shoulder is open to be used as a lane or closed.
In this survey, 93% of respondents thought the roads were dangerous and 91% supported a halt on the continued rollout of smart motorways. Some parts of the country where the schemes have been implemented have seen a near 20-fold increase in accidents and near-misses. Near Luton, such accidents claimed the lives of a student as well a two lorry drivers in 2020.
A 23-mile stretch of the M1 between Milton Keynes and Northampton is currently being converted at a cost of £373million to the taxpayer.
In January 2020, the Government announced a suspension of the creation of new smart motorways, pending a review. I have been calling for the voices and experiences of road users to be included in any review.
One concerned road user who responded to our survey said “I was stuck behind a broken down vehicle on the inside lane. It was terrifying, I thought I was going to be smashed into it from behind.
Another added: “the number of near misses I’ve witnessed due to people being stopped on the inside lane before they have been noticed is hideous. As a general rule I see at least one a week, and I only travel 2 junctions. It’s terrifying to think how quickly a broken down vehicle could turn into a multi car collision!”
The government must listen to the strength of feeling that I’ve found among people in Luton about smart motorways.
People are being killed in accidents on these roads. If they’re found to be less safe than a regular motorway, then surely they can’t continue. That’s what has to be paramount here: the confidence and safety of road users.
I’m going to continue fighting to make sure that the voice of my constituents who are really worried about these roads is heard by the government and acted on.