The Association of British Drivers (ABD) has recently commented that the Government's desire to extract the maximum capacity from the motorway network at the lowest possible cost could jeopardise road safety.
This is at a time when the Government have reported that 2011 saw the first annual increase in road fatalities in the UK since 2003 and up 3% on 2010. The number of people killed or seriously injured has also increased by 2% on 2010, the first annual increase since 1994.
The managed motorway schemes that are currently in use allow the hard shoulder to be used as a traffic lane at times of peak traffic flow. To help make this as safe as possible variable speed limits apply and there are refuge areas available for emergency use.
This is all about to change with the introduction of a managed motorway scheme on part of the M1 in South Yorkshire. The hard shoulder will now be in use at all times, often with the speed limit at 70mph. The distance between the refuge areas will be four times greater than current schemes (2,000 metres instead of 500 metres). Plus the outside (fourth) lane will also be reduced in width to 3.2 metres from the 3.65 metres.
Local authorities and emergency services in South Yorkshire have voiced their concerns about the M1 scheme adding to the fears expressed by the ABD.
ABD chairman Brian Gregory - "These cost-cutting proposals are a step too far and we call on the House of Commons Transport Committee to hold an inquiry into their safety as a matter of urgency. With drivers paying five times as much in taxes as is spent on the road network, we deserve better."
Managed motorway schemes are a cheap alternative to widening or new build schemes but at what cost to our safety?