The Chief Scientist at TRL has reacted to the call from the Transport Select Committee to scrap plans for all-lane running motorways by pointing out that his organisation’s research suggests they are no less safe than other motorways.
Dr Alan Stevens says TRL has concluded this after several research projects to see how people respond to both dynamic hard shoulder and all-lane running, although he does agree on the need for sufficient ongoing evaluation.
“The volume of traffic on our motorways is increasing, so we need to take steps to increase capacity, improve traffic flow and ease congestion in a safe and pragmatic way,” he says. “Smart motorways allow this to be achieved usually within the highway boundary, limiting land use and disruption from road widening while ultimately providing drivers with shorter, more predictable journeys and less stressful driving.
“Whilst the Transport Select Committee has raised valid concerns over the need for sufficient evaluation, TRL believes that the implementation of technology, such as smart motorways, is vital in keeping our networks flowing and can be achieved without increasing overall risk. We have conducted several research projects using our driving simulator to see how people respond to both dynamic hard shoulder and all-lane running motorways and found both to be no less safe than other motorways. Of course, like with all new transport innovations, implementation will need to be continuously monitored to ensure the predicted and desired outcomes are achieved with any safety implications immediately identified and addressed.”
Dr Stevens concludes by saying, “what we need to remember is that motorways are the safest roads in the country. The amount of traffic carried on these roads is huge yet the volume of incidents is low, so we must get the balance right between increasing capacity and ensuring risk to road users is tolerable. This requires safety risk evidence, which in turn needs sufficient evaluation to ensure we generate a big enough evidence base from which to draw meaningful conclusions.”