Motorway failure prompts fresh calls for ‘death trap’ roads to be axed
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Members of the public are calling for 'death trap' smart motorways to be scrapped after a two-hour software failure caused chaos during rush hour.
It can be frustrating enough to be forced offline when you're in the comfort of your own home, but being left isolated while also hurtling down a road at high speeds brings with it a whole new level of anxiety.
The Dynac system on England’s smart motorway network is responsible for operating signs and signals as well as detecting vehicles that have stopped on the road, but a failure rendered the system entirely useless between 8.30am and 10.30am yesterday (22 February).
Smart motorways had already come under fire after a 2021 investigation revealed more than one in ten safety cameras were either broken, misted over or facing the wrong way on the roads, so the latest incident has only added more fuel to the fire.
The fault occurred across the M5, M6, M62 and M60 as well as the M1 north of Northampton, and meant that it was impossible to change the signals to close lanes where a hazard had been detected.
If a driver broke down in a lane with no hard shoulder, they would be forced to wait until they were spotted by CCTV or officer patrols rather than quickly being spotted by the smart motorway's stopped vehicle detection.
AA president Edmund King described drivers who might find themselves in this situation as 'sitting ducks'.
Andrew Page-Dove, operational control director at National Highways, apologised for any convenience caused in a statement to LADbible and assured the agency would 'urgently investigate the cause of this incident to help prevent a repeat'.
“Engineers worked at pace to restore and stabilise our traffic management system following an unplanned outage that took place on Wednesday morning," he continued.
“We have well-rehearsed procedures to deal with operational issues such as these. In this instance, we rapidly took steps to help ensure the safety of road users such as increased patrols and CCTV monitoring.”
Amid the issues, Rotherham MP Sarah Champion called for an end to the use of all-lane running smart motorways, accusing the government of 'prioritising increasing motorway capacity on the cheap and gambling the lives of motorists to get it'.
One of Champion's constituents, Jason Mercer, was killed on a smart motorway in South Yorkshire in 2019.
In January 2022, the government announced a decision to pause the construction of more all-lane smart motorways for five years amid safety assessments.
However, projects under construction before the announcement moved ahead because 'it was felt by National Highways it would be more detrimental' to put them on hold.
Champion noted that four new sections of all-lane running motorway are set to open this spring, saying: "While the government dithers, constituencies like mine continue to host death trap roads"
LADbible has contacted National Highways for comment.