Transport Secretary: "smart" motorways not going anywhere

The transport secretary said it was “entirely wrong” that smart motorways were introduced without the right technology to make them safe – but he ruled out scrapping them.

Grant Shapps said reversing the controversial traffic measure would mean acquiring land the equivalent of 700 Wembley stadium-sized football pitches and destroying large areas of green belt and that instead “we have to make what’s there safe.” Shapps was responding to concerns about smart motorways following an inquest into the deaths of two men on the M1, which found that the roads presented “an ongoing risk of future deaths” (CM 4 February).

He told the transport select committee that he inherited the system when he was made secretary of state and he commissioned a report into their safety because he shared people’s concerns. He said that the results of his stock take showed that fatal casualty rates were lower than on conventional motorways.

However, he also said that the rollout of camera technology was too slow. He said: “When I got to the stocktake, these weren’t going to come in for many, many years and I agree with you that it’s entirely wrong to build a so-called smart motorway without the technology in place to make it safer.

“That’s not the right approach. I brought that forward several years at the stocktake. I have met with Highways England and put pressure on and we are bringing it forward again and we will have stopped vehicle detection developed and installed on all of the network.”

No-show operator gets licence revoked

An Enfield operator who demonstrated a “wholly deficient” approach to compliance and co-operation with the traffic commissioner has had its licence revoked.

BK Plant, which held a restricted licence authorising two lorries, failed to attend a virtual public inquiry held by London and South East TC Sarah Bell, after its vehicles attracted roadworthiness prohibitions. Despite numerous reminders by DVSA traffic examiners following roadside encounters, BK Plant director Besmir Kodraj also failed to send any tachograph data for assessment.

In a written decision following the PI, TC Bell said the operator had only engaged with the regulatory process once it received a proposal to revoke letter from her office. “However, apart from the original adjournment request and its former solicitor lodging financial evidence, the operator has again failed to co-operate,” she said. “No data has been sent to the traffic examiner for the purposes of today and no maintenance and similar records have been sent to my office in advance or at all. The director’s email of 12 October 2020 is less than compelling.”

The TC said Kodraj was in the country when the requested data should have been downloaded and, even when he was abroad, he had still been able to change vehicles on the licence via the operator self-service system. “By his own admission, Mr Kodraj does not have an audit trail to demonstrate compliance. Even so he continues to operate. Mr Kodraj has this morning added a vehicle PJ09LCW to the operator licence and removed another to make way for it. This approach to compliance and co-operation is wholly deficient.”

Summing up, the TC said BK Plant put commercial need ahead of compliance over a sustained period and it appeared to respect neither road safety nor fair competition. She said: “Accordingly, the evidence is overwhelmingly that it is no longer fit to hold a licence, and by Mr Kodraj’s own admission the operator does not have sufficient systems to demonstrate compliance.”

TC Bell said she had not made a direction under Section 28 of the Act, which relates to disqualification. “However, any future application by this company and/or this director must be referred to a traffic commissioner or deputy traffic commissioner and must not been dealt with under any delegated authority,” she added.