Following the headline-grabbing news that Liz Truss is open to the idea of turning the UK motorway network into an autobahn-style system, we took a closer look at the idea. Of course, we all know that both Truss and Sunak are electioneering at the moment, doing their best to tell tory members what they think they want to hear. But, however sincere the motivation turns out to be, dispatching with the speed limit will have an inevitable impact on both road safety and the tyre market. So, with that in mind, this month’s column is something of a thought experiment. What would happen if Liz Truss became prime minister and got her way when it comes to turning motorways into autobahns?
As the conservative party chooses a new leader, something that will result in a new Prime Minister of the UK, both candidates have weighed in with their views on transport policy. For her part, Liz Truss has said she is willing to look at making motorway speed limits “advisory”.
After last month’s government announcement of a five year pause in the introduction of new smart motorways to assess their safety, new research reveals that an increasing number of drivers are taking their own precautionary measures when using smart stretches already in operation. According to a study conducted on behalf of Kwik Fit, 73% of drivers avoid driving on the hard shoulder of a smart motorway even when signs show it is open for traffic. This proportion has increased from 56% of drivers in 2019.
Venson survey shows drivers support smart motorways, but some education is still required to improve safety and a sizeable minority have safety concerns. With controversial smart motorways continuing to cause debate across the motor industry and within Government, Venson Automotive Solutions has asked drivers for their opinion. Bucking the ‘anti’ trend led by industry influencers calling for alternations to the system, 56 per cent agree that smart motorways are indeed necessary to help improve road safety and ease congestion. Half see the benefits for congestion levels, and a quarter expect smart motorways to ease emissions. However, one in ten admit they don’t know what a smart motorway is, highlighting the need for driver education.
As fans cheer on the England squad’s bid for World Cup semi-final glory this evening, the country’s busiest roads will be much quieter than the normally would be midweek at 7pm. Highways England says a brief analysis of traffic on each of the England match days to date, comparing an hour before kick-off to two hours after, shows that during the games demand reduced by up to 33 per cent.
The RAC has announced that scrapping the hard shoulder on busy motorways will put more motorist’s lives at risk.
According to the RAC, more than half (55 per cent) of drivers do not know where to go if they break down on stretches of the new ‘smart’ motorways and 52 per cent did not know what an emergency refuge area was.
Figures obtained by BBC Radio 5 live suggest an 18 per cent rise in the number of people caught using the hard shoulder illegally between 2014-15 and 2015-16. It has been announced that drivers caught offending on so-called smart motorways in England could be offered re-education courses by police. Police chiefs said the new road rules were confusing motorists and more awareness was needed.