Calls for smart motorway work on M6 in Wigan to stop amid safety fears

Concerns have been raised about the continuation of work to create a smart motorway in Wigan, as the rollout of the scheme nationally is put on hold.

Friday, 14th January 2022, 12:30 pm

The Department for Transport announced it will halt the expansion of the motorways, where the hard shoulder is used as a permanent live traffic lane, until five years’ worth of data has been collected to assess whether they are safe.

It follows fatal incidents involving broken-down vehicles being hit from behind due to a lack of a hard shoulder.

But work will continue on stretches that are already in construction, which includes on the M6, between junction 21A at Croft interchange and junction 26 at Orrell interchange.

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The scheme has been paused nationally

Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue said: “I welcome the decision to pause the rollout of further schemes whilst further analysis of the safety of smart motorways can be collected.

“I remain of the view that the removal of the hard shoulder presents real safety concern and I have therefore written to the minister for an update on the current rollout along the M6 corridor.”

Orrell councillor Michael Winstanley, leader of the Conservatives on Wigan Council, said: “I don’t believe that the statement goes far enough, as it doesn’t include those motorways that are under construction at the moment and locally this does impact upon the M6. I believe that this scheme should be halted before any more work is completed.

“This scheme is extremely unpopular and controversial. If the review concludes that these smart motorways are unsafe, which I believe that they are, then to carry on implementing this on the M6 isn’t very wise. I would urge the Secretary of State therefore to halt all schemes that are currently underway.”

Readers voiced their opposition to the scheme on Wigan Today’s Facebook page.

Ronnie Caunce said: “We need the hard shoulder. Smart is not safe. You need the hard shoulder in case of breakdown or puncture. It’s a no-brainer.”

Moi Wood said: “I don’t think any should have been done. No common sense in this government or councils. Just a big waste of money and not just a little bit, a lot of money.”

Carole Darby said: “Reinstate as was, these so-called smart motorways are proven death traps.”

Car insurance expert at Confused.com, Alex Kindred, said: “Our research found that drivers are concerned about the safety of smart motorways, with more than two in five (42 per cent) thinking that they are dangerous, so it’s positive to see that these concerns are being recognised. But this just pauses the rollout of new all-lane running motorways, it doesn’t do anything to address the confusion created by the existing all-lane running stretches as hard shoulders aren’t going to be reinstated.”

Work started on the M6 last spring to convert the hard shoulders to provide four traffic lanes in each direction.

National Highways will be installing radar detectors to automatically detect any stationary vehicles.

A total of 92 electronic signs will be used to set variable speed limits and close lanes by displaying red Xs during incidents, while 39 CCTV cameras will provide live images at National Highway’s regional operations centre in Newton-le-Willows.

The metal barrier in the central reservation is being replaced with a concrete barrier and there will be 10 emergency areas where drivers can stop if they break down.

The smart motorway is set to open by spring 2023.

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