Smart Motorways needed to fight “Attack of the Cones”

Rob has welcomed government plans to try to reduce cone-induced motorway misery for drivers, but says so much more could be done to keep Britain moving.

Roads Minister, John Hayes, has announced a pilot plan to see whether the speed limit in roadworks could be increased from fifty to sixty miles per hour and to limit coned-off lanes to a maximum of ten miles.  Rob says it’s a good idea but simply doesn’t go far enough.

Rob says, “It’s good that government is looking at this but the minister’s suggestion is just not sophisticated enough.  Speed limits through roadworks should be variable so that drivers are kept to fifty on safety grounds when workers are present but raised to sixty-five when they’ve all gone home for the day.  However, even if that were done it’s still a bit of a sticking plaster solution to the wider problem of our ageing, crowded major roads.”

Rob wants to see an extension of the smart motorways policy which has been so effective on the M42 and M25 whereby variable speed limits are enforced to keep traffic moving as best it can in differing conditions.

“The government is wedded to the idea of All Lane Running which permanently changes the hard shoulder to use by ordinary traffic, but that has serious safety implications where there are breakdowns, especially for recovery vehicles trying to help stranded drivers.  What chance will a tow driver have of getting up to a safe speed from a standing start with a forty tonne HGV on the back if they’re having to do so in a live lane of fast-moving traffic?  It is incredibly dangerous.”

The MP, who is also chairman of the All Party Group on Freight Transport, says he’s not opposed to the idea of regular use of the hard shoulder but he says it has to be properly managed.  “Smart Motorways utilise Active Traffic Management techniques so that speed limits can be varied and hard shoulders used when it’s appropriate and safe so to do.  What’s more, we’ve heard from the government health watchdog, NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence), that variable limits can reduce atmospheric pollution by keeping traffic on the move rather than stuck in lengthy queues.”

“Frankly,” he says, “we can only go so far as a country by making small improvements here and there to stop everything grinding to a halt.  What is needed is a properly thought-out integrated transport policy.  We need to consider road, rail, air and sea together.  We’re a small collection of islands with a big population and it’s time to make all our transport arteries work as one rather than operating against each other.  Until we do that, problems like motorway congestion will not simply be solvable.”