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Road Safety

Transport – in the House of Commons on 30th January 2020.

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Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Labour, Nottingham South

What steps his Department is taking to improve road safety.

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

The Government are committed to improving safety on all our roads, and to reducing the numbers of those who are needlessly killed and injured. Last July, we published “The road safety statement 2019: a lifetime of road safety”.

Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Labour, Nottingham South

Sir Mike Penning has this week accused Highways England of

“a shocking degree of carelessness” in rolling out all-lane-running motorways, and the chairman of the Police Federation has described smart motorways as “inherently dangerous” and “a death trap”. I welcomed the Secretary of State’s announcement of a rapid evidence stocktake, and he promised to bring forward recommendations in a matter of weeks, but it has now been three months. What is he going to do, and when, to prevent further avoidable deaths?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

I should like to start by thanking the hon. Lady for her sterling work as Chair of the Select Committee on Transport, which I am sure is recognised by all Members of the House. She is absolutely right about that stocktake. Two things have happened. First, the general election intervened and took up some weeks. The other thing that has happened—I say this in all sincerity—is that I have uncovered a range of issues that I am not content simply to brush over. I have therefore requested further information, and we are nearly there. In this process, I have specifically included going back to, speaking to and in one case meeting the families of those who have been affected by these issues. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead that there is far too much complication in having all-lane-running dynamic motorways—smart motorways. If the hon. Lady will forgive me, this is taking a little longer, but I think we will get to a much better outcome.

Photo of Karl Turner Karl Turner Shadow Minister (Transport)

It has been clear for some time that all-lane-running motorways are death traps. As my hon. Friend Sarah Champion has pointed out, five people have been killed in just 10 months on a 16-mile stretch of the M1. The Secretary of State has the power to scrap these dangerous motorways now, so will he stop this dither and delay and act now to avoid further tragic deaths and serious injuries? Will he also assure the House that there will be no restoration of these motorways without full radar coverage?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

As I pointed out a moment ago—perhaps after the hon. Gentleman’s question was written—it is important that we gather all the facts. Sadly, 1,700-plus people died on all our roads in 2018. Motorways of the safest of those roads, but the question is: are smart motorways less safe than the rest of the motorway network? For me, we must make them at least as safe, if not safer, otherwise they cannot continue. But we have to do this as a fact-based process. I am interested, rightly, in speaking to the families of the victims as well as to organisations such as the AA and the RAC and to Members of this House. Forgive me, it does take time to do this correctly, but I do not think the hon. Gentleman will be disappointed with the results.

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Chair, Transport Committee

I should like to join the Secretary of State in paying tribute to Lilian Greenwood for the way in which she has chaired the Transport Committee over the past two years. She has done so with great fairness, and she probed with great diligence as well. I want to give her my thanks for that, and she is also a wonderful friend.

When it comes to road safety, there is great concern that school safety is at risk. Would it be possible to set up a programme of investment so that the most dangerous schools can get the necessary technology and 20 mph speed limits put in place? That would also encourage the use of walking buses.

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his election as Chair of the Select Committee. Yes, I agree with him about working with schools. One point that is often forgotten is that local authorities already have the power to reduce speed limits, for example to 20 mph. I look forward to working with him as Chair of the Committee.

Photo of Tracey Crouch Tracey Crouch Conservative, Chatham and Aylesford

The Secretary of State will be aware that the stretch of the M20 that runs through my constituency is due to open as an all-lane-running motorway in March, but it does not have stopped vehicle detection systems or appropriately spaced emergency refuges. I appreciate that it will be frustrating for those using it to continue to have cones and low speed limits, but does he agree that, given the concerns about safety on all-lane-running motorways, it should not open until all those measures have been put in place?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has campaigned on this issue for a long time. That stretch of the M20, and all other stretches that are currently being worked on, will not be opened until we have the outcome of the stocktake.