The Government insists it is not “cutting corners” with a plan to turn the hard shoulder of the M1 in Yorkshire into a permanent traffic lane, and has rejected safety concerns raised by local MPs.
Transport Minister Stephen Hammond insisted the scheme is about providing “the most efficient and safest motorways” rather than saving money, and would merely be an extension of a “well-established” system which has been successfully trialled in other parts of the country.
Road safety chiefs and members of the emergency services have previously warned that turning the hard shoulder into a traffic lane could lead to more accidents involving broken-down vehicles.
Clive Betts, MP for Sheffield South East, and Meg Munn, who represents the city’s Heeley constituency, have both spoken of concerns over the 10-mile South Yorkshire stretch, which carries 110,000 vehicles a day.
But Mr Hammond said: “This is not about cutting corners; it has never been about that, or about downturn in money. It has always been about ensuring we get the most efficient and safest motorways.”
He highlighted successful pilots of so-called ‘managed motorway’ schemes on the M42 and the M6, which he said had actually cut the number of accidents.
“The M42 pilot showed considerable improvement in safety - accidents involving personal injury were reduced by some 55 per cent,” he said.
“Overall, there was a reduction in the severity of accidents, with no fatalities and fewer serious injuries. So to suggest a move to managed motorways, or indeed to hard shoulder running, necessarily represents a decline in safety,is not shown by the evidence.”