Link to report
1. The introduction of All Lane Running motorways to the Strategic Road Network comes at a time when roads are getting busier and busier and the risk levels are, as a consequence, increasing for recovery operators. In this context it was, and continues to be, crucial that All Lane Running be implemented in a way that ensures the safety of recovery operators, as well as the general public. 2. From a recovery operators perspective, All Lane Running motorways are not in and of themselves a bad idea; congestion of increased road usage needs to be reduced somehow, and rescue operations that take place from within an Emergency Refuge Area are more safe than traditional rescue operations taking place on a hard shoulder. If it could have been carried out in a way that maintained or improved safety of road users and recovery operators, and delivered value to the taxpayer, then the implementation of All Lane Running could have been an acceptable development. 3. But, the APPG ﬁnds the implementation of All Lane Running, which has been presented by Highways England and the Department for Transport as the natural extension of earlier ‘smart motorways’ but is in fact a fundamental alteration to the nature of a road, has been conducted with a shocking degree of carelessness. The necessary steps have not been taken in advance to ensure the safety of motorists and recovery operators. Many of the measures now being taken should have been in place before the roll-out of these roads commenced. This would have also cost the taxpayer less, given the high cost of retroﬁtting in comparison with installing the safety features during construction – and, more importantly, it would have saved lives. 4. The 3-year safety data from the M25 is to be welcomed, but there were concerns that this data from one speciﬁc All Lane Running scheme wasn’t representative, and yet had been used to justify the roll-out of All Lane Running across the country. The initial 1-year safety data from 7 of 9 other existing All Lane Running schemes also show a modest improvement in safety across the system. But it is still too early to make the judgement that All Lane Running should continue to be rolled out nationally. 5. Live lane breakdowns are the situations which are central to all the problems associated with All Lane Running. The recordings of 999 calls of motorists trapped in such situations are harrowing, and they underscore the fact that there are still concerns that many motorists don’t know what to do in such situations. Tragically, this situation has led to casualties amongst road users. The 38% live lane breakdown rate amongst road users is completely unacceptable. Though live lane breakdowns do occur on traditional motorways 20.43% of the time, these are nevertheless the most terrifying and dangerous situations for road
APPG for Roadside Rescue and Recovery All Lane Running Inquiry
users and should be minimised at all costs. That a system is being rolled-out across the country that nearly doubles the frequency of such incidents is a public policy failure. It is reﬂective of their lack of focus on safety in this entire project that the Chief Executive of the agency responsible for implementing this policy was unable to produce this most important of comparisons when asked by Members of Parliament on the Transport Committee. 6. Live lane breakdowns also pose a problem for recovery operators, even if they aren’t required to rescue in a live lane. The fact that some recovery operators have chosen to intervene rather than ‘orbit’ a stranded motorist in a live lane breakdown speaks to the impossible situation that the status quo can often leave them in. However, the APPG does not endorse this behaviour. 7. It is clear from the evidence received that Highways England do not currently have the resources and systems in place to respond to live lane breakdowns in a fast enough manner to ensure the safety of motorists and prevent recovery operators from being forced to regularly ‘orbit’ breakdowns. As well as the widespread implementation of Stopped Vehicle Detection, there needs to be an increase in the number of Highways England Traﬃc Oﬃcers on patrol at all times across the Strategic Road Network. 8. On Emergency Refuge Areas, the APPG ﬁnds the claims that spacing has no eﬀect on the frequency of live lane breakdowns to be unconvincing. The current live lane breakdown rate of 38% on All Lane Running Motorways(as compared with 20.43% on traditional motorways) is far too high – it can only be the case that reducing spacing will reduce this ﬁgure and lead to fewer live lane breakdowns, an outcome which would beneﬁt road users and recovery operators alike. Indeed, reducing these ﬁgures must now be an absolute priority. 9. The Stopped Vehicle Detection technology that has recently been successfully trialled on the M25 should have been present on all stretches of All Lane Running from the outset, and certainly should have been retroﬁtted in 2016, after a commitment was made to do so. And it should have been included in the design of all systems introduced thereafter. Highways England Chief Executive Jim O’Sullivan’s admission that, had this technology been in place, a commitment that his agency made to a House of Commons Select Committee, some of those 8 people who have lost their lives on All Lane Running stretches may not have done so amounts to a gross public policy failure and a damning indictment of the agency’s on-the-hoof approach to All Lane Running motorways.
10.Red X compliance was too low when All Lane Running was rolled-out, and continues to be so. But the improvements that have been made on this front are welcomed as are the measures taken to tackle non-compliance, such as information campaigns and the introduction of a £100 penalty.
APPG for Roadside Rescue and Recovery All Lane Running Inquiry
11.The APPG heard conﬂicting reports about recovery operators’ current working relationship with Highways England Traﬃc Oﬃcers. There was a feeling that when All Lane Running were ﬁrst rolled-out there was a lack of communication as to best practice for recovery operators, but it seems that this has improved as recovery operators have become accustomed to new systems. There were also concerns raised about a lack of communication about when and where work was beginning on new stretches of All Lane Running motorways, and the eﬀect these works would have on recovery operators, with reports of cones blocking entrance to the hard shoulder appearing without warning. If the roll-out continues, both of these issues will continue to present challenges, as more recovery operators become exposed to these roads for the ﬁrst time. 12.Highways England’s new Smart Motorways Awareness for the Roadside Rescue and Recovery Industry training course is a welcome development and should be rolled-out in partnership with as wide an array of industry bodies as is feasible, and increased dialogue between the industry and Highways England is encouraged. While this is welcome, it will have no eﬀect on the structural problems addressing safety outlined in this report, and it is critical that these are addressed alongside increase dialogue.