Road chiefs back new 'death trap' smart motorway: Ten miles of the M6 will have no hard shoulder… despite officials admitting it will cause MORE crashes

Road chiefs back new 'death trap' smart motorway: Ten miles of the M6 will have no hard shoulder... despite officials admitting it will cause MORE crashes

  • Ten-mile stretch of the M6 set to become smart motorway despite calls to scrap
  • It won't have hard shoulder and emergency refuges will be up to 1.5miles apart
  • Highways England ignoring Transport Secretary Grant Shapps's safety advice

By David Churchill Transport Correspondent For The Daily Mail

Published: 22:40, 22 February 2021 | Updated: 11:35, 23 February 2021

Ten miles of the M6 are to be turned into a smart motorway with no hard shoulder and emergency refuges up to 1.5 miles apart - contravening safety guidance from Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

Following a review last March, Mr Shapps said the refuges - where vehicles can pull in during an accident or breakdown - should be between three quarters of a mile and a mile apart.

But Highways England bosses are ignoring the safety advice.

Following a review last March, Mr Shapps said the refuges - where vehicles can pull in during an accident or breakdown - should be between three quarters of a mile and a mile apart.

Picture: Stock

Road chiefs back new 'death trap' smart motorway: Ten miles of the M6 will have no hard shoulder... despite officials admitting it will cause MORE crashes

A coroner ruled the lack of a hard shoulder contributed to the deaths of two drivers on the M1 near Sheffield in 2019 - Jason Mercer, 44, (pictured with wife Claire) and Alexandru Morgeanu, 22

The Mail can reveal that an assessment of the M6 scheme estimates there will be 101 extra 'accidents and casualties in all severity categories' over 60 years. 

The internal Highways England document suggests these extra collisions will happen because 'the scheme will attract more traffic on to the motorway network'.

Grieving mum's call for change 

The mother of a boy of eight killed on a smart motorway has written to Highways England urging it to reconsider its plans for the M6.

Road chiefs back new 'death trap' smart motorway: Ten miles of the M6 will have no hard shoulder... despite officials admitting it will cause MORE crashes

Eight-year-old Dev Naran died on the M6 after the hard shoulder was removed temporarily 

Dev Naran died on the M6 near Birmingham after the hard shoulder was removed temporarily. 

His mother Meera, 37, an independent road safety campaigner, said: 'Having lost my son Dev in such tragic circumstances, I'm not a fan of smart motorways and working now as an independent road safety campaigner, will not be satisfied until all of the action plans are fully implemented. My priority is, and always will be, safer drivers on safer roads.

'Dev was an incredibly caring young boy. He never asked for anything for himself.

He was just eight years old. He loved football, school and spending time with us, his family.

'I don't want anyone else to go through what we did - to lose a loved one like this.

'You never expect to outlive your child, and the pain never stops, but I will continue to campaign in his memory.

'In terms of the sections of motorways about to be constructed, I have voiced my concerns about plans in design and am waiting for a response from Highways England as a matter of urgency.'

Dev, from Leicester, died when the car he was in, which had halted on a shoulder open to traffic, was hit by a lorry at 56mph in May 2018.

Road chiefs back new 'death trap' smart motorway: Ten miles of the M6 will have no hard shoulder... despite officials admitting it will cause MORE crashes

Dev's mother (pictured together) has written to Highways England urging it to reconsider its plans for the M6

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The M6 overhaul, from junction 21a near Warrington in Cheshire to junction 26 near Wigan, will see a total of 20 miles of carriageway turned into smart motorway - ten miles each way.

The hard shoulder will be converted permanently into a lane of traffic. Construction is due to begin next month.

Highways England has admitted at public consultations that it will not be built to fully meet the new safety standards. 

Emergency refuges will be up to 1.5 miles apart and on average 1.1 miles apart, although some will meet the three quarters of a mile recommendation.

Scrapping hard shoulders means cars can be marooned in traffic lanes.

The closer the refuges are, the more chance drivers have of reaching safety.

There will be six emergency refuges southbound and four northbound on the M6 scheme. 

That section carries 120,000 vehicles daily between Lancashire, Merseyside, Cheshire and Greater Manchester.

Turning it into a smart motorway will cost up to ?250million and take around two years.

Rebecca Lush, of the Transport Action Network campaign group, said: 'Highways England are going against the orders of Grant Shapps by ploughing ahead with another dangerous motorway. 

'It's time Grant Shapps cancelled the smart motorway programme before more lives are lost.'

Tory MP Karl McCartney, who sits on the Commons transport committee, said: 'All works to spread smart motorways across the network should be halted immediately and their safety investigated.'

Mr Shapps told the committee this month he was making smart motorways safer, adding: 'I do not approve of the fact that the emergency areas were spaced way too far apart.

'Ideally, they have to be three quarters of a mile and no more than a mile. 

'I have ordered Highways England to put in more emergency areas.'

He also admitted the rollout of smart motorways, which began before he took charge, had been 'entirely wrong', but reversing it was not feasible.

Last month, the Mail reported how a coroner ruled the lack of a hard shoulder contributed to the deaths of two drivers on the M1 near Sheffield in 2019 - Jason Mercer, 44, and Alexandru Morgeanu, 22. 

Mr Mercer's wife, Claire, said of the M6 plans: 'They don't seem to give a damn about people dying.'

It emerged at the weekend that the death toll on smart motorways had hit a record.

There were 14 deaths in 2019 on those where hard shoulders are full-time or part-time lanes, up from 11 in 2018 and five in 2017.

The Department for Transport said Mr Shapps had pledged ?500million for smart motorway safety improvements. 

Highways England said the M6 scheme was designed in 2018, too early for his safety guidance from March to be included. 

It added: 'This was designed to be at least as safe, if not safer than the motorway it replaces.'

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