Stevenage councillors raise fears over A1(M) ‘smart’ motorway plans

PUBLISHED: 06:59 09 February 2020 | UPDATED: 13:42 18 February 2020

Looking South down the A1(M) motorway between junction six and seven. Picture: DANNY LOO

Looking South down the A1(M) motorway between junction six and seven. Picture: DANNY LOO

©2018 Archant

Stevenage councillors want the government to come up with alternative proposals to cut congestion on the A1(M) – after highlighting their own fears about ‘smart’ motorways.

Stevenage councillors want the government to come up with alternative proposals to cut congestion on the A1(M) - after highlighting their own fears about 'smart' motorways.

The stretch of the A1(M) - between Junction 6 for Hatfield and Junction 8 for the north of Stevenage - had been earmarked for conversion to a smart motorway, where motorists can drive on the hard shoulder at certain times.

Amid mounting safety concerns, work is subject the results of a national review, however is still set to go ahead.

On Wednesday, January 29, Stevenage councillors highlighted their own concerns at a full council meeting.

They pointed to growing fears in relation to safety and backed a motion that said there could be "no justification for any further introduction of smart motorway systems anywhere on UK roads".

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They called for an urgent review by transport secretary Grant Shapps for a smart motorway between junctions 6 and 8 of the A1(M) before any work began.

Alternative and urgent proposals for relieving congestion on the A1(M) were also called for.

Executive member for transport, Councillor Lloyd Briscoe - who presented the motion - pointed to evidence presented in a BBC Panorama programme, broadcast two days earlier.

Council leader Sharon Taylor - who seconded the motion - said her worry was that the A1(M) would be the last stretch of smart motorway before an inquiry would determine they should not go ahead anywhere in the UK. "We need to make our views very clear on this topic," she said. "It's not now and it never had been that this is the solution to the A1(M)."

The leader of the Liberal Democrat group, Councillor Robin Parker, said that there was already enough emerging evidence that smart motorways were not a good thing. However Conservative group leader Phil Bibby said they could not support the motion because they had not had time to research the issue.

No new smart motorway schemes will begin until after the outcome of the stock-take is known.

A Highways England spokesperson said: "Any death on our roads is a tragedy and safety is always our number one priority. The Department for Transport is considering a range of evidence during their stocktake. We expect the results to be published shortly and to provide the most up to date assessment of the safety of smart motorways.

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