London: UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has cancelled the building of new “smart motorways” amid concerns about safety and cost, the Department for Transport said.
Fourteen planned smart motorways, which use technology to regulate traffic flow and ease congestion, will be removed from the governments road building plans, the department said.
“All drivers deserve to have confidence in the roads they use to get around the country,” Sunak said in a statement at the weekend.
“That’s why last year I pledged to stop the building of all new smart motorways, and today I’m making good on that promise.”
The department said initial estimates suggest the construction of future smart motorway schemes would have cost more than £1 billion and that cancelling these schemes would allow more time to track public confidence in smart motorways over a longer period.
Around 10 percent of England’s motorway network is made up of smart motorways, which use methods such as converting the hard shoulder into an extra lane of traffic, something critics claim has led to road deaths.
While accidents between moving vehicles are reported to have fallen, there has been an increase in the number of accidents in which moving vehicles, unaware that the left lane is serving as a hard shoulder, collide with a stationary vehicle.
Existing stretches will remain but be subjected to a safety refit so there are more emergency stopping places.
The government, which paused the rollout of the roads in January, had maintained that smart motorways “are comparatively the safest roads in the country in terms of fatality rates”.
Campaigner Claire Mercer, whose husband was killed on a smart motorway in South Yorkshire, welcomed the move and pledged to continue pushing for the hard shoulder to return on every road.
“I’m particularly happy that it’s been confirmed that the routes that are in planning, in progress, have also been cancelled,” she told the PA news agency.
Jason Mercer and another man, Alexandru Murgeanu, died in 2019 when they were hit by a lorry on the M1 near Sheffield after they stopped on the inside lane of the smart motorway section following a minor collision.