Families of people killed on smart motorways demand answers

Families of people killed on smart motorways demand answers

October 12, 2021

‘We want answers’: Families of people killed on smart motorways demand MPs grill road chiefs over expose of system’s shortfalls

  • A Daily Mail investigation revealed huge shortfalls in ‘smart’ motorway technologies that resulted in several deaths
  • The damning findings prompted Boris Johnson to order a ‘thorough’ probe into smart motorways amid demands for justice from the families of motorists killed
  • National Highways is now conducting an investigation and is preparing a full report on the shortcomings of the system
  • Meanwhile, a DfT spokesperson said the department will ‘urgently consider’ the report’s preliminary findings

The families of victims killed on ‘death trap’ smart motorways have demanded that MPs grill roads bosses following the Mail’s bombshell undercover expose.

Our investigation revealed devastating shortfalls including broken CCTV cameras, system outages and flaws in expensive radar technology used to detect breakdowns.

The damning findings prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson to order a ‘thorough’ probe into smart motorways.

The Department for Transport admitted it had received an ‘initial update’ from a National Highways inquiry – but would not give further details on its findings. 

Now, relatives of victims who died on the roads have say: ‘We want answers.’

Several claims made by roads minister Baroness Vere and National Highways boss Nick Harris to the transport select committee this summer contrast with our revelations. 

Claire Mercer, whose husband Jason was killed in 2019 on a smart stretch of the M1 – in which the hard shoulder is used as a ‘live’ lane of traffic – said: ‘It’s just carnage. We know their claims are false and the least we deserve is to see them answer these questions again, this time truthfully.’

Claire Mercer’s husband Jason was killed in 2019 on a smart stretch of the M1 – in which the hard shoulder is used as a ‘live’ lane of traffic (pictured: Claire Mercer)

Jason Mercer, 47 (pictured right) and Nargis Begum, 62, tragically died in separate crashes on a stretch of the M1 near Sheffield, South Yorks

Claire Mercer, whose husband Jason was killed on a section of smart motorway on the M1 near Sheffield, protests outside South Yorkshire Police HQ in Sheffield, where she is calling on the chief constable to prosecute Highways England over her husband’s death

Mrs Mercer, 44, urged MPs on the committee to ‘sit up and take notice’ of the Mail’s chilling findings. 

Naiz Shazad, 33, the son of Nargis Begum, 62, who was killed on the M1 near Sheffield three years ago, added: ‘Their claims must be reassessed following the shocking failures the Daily Mail discovered.’

Last night Labour’s transport spokesman Jim McMahon joined calls for those responsible for smart motorways to appear again in front of MPs before they publish their report later this month.

‘The shocking findings uncovered by the Mail put into sharp focus the need for swift action from the Government, before more lives are lost on smart motorways’, he said.

It comes as lawyer Helen Smith, of Irwin Mitchell which is representing Mrs Mercer, wrote to the committee to ensure it ‘urgently’ considers our shocking findings.

She said Mr Mercer’s family are ‘concerned and shocked at the significant difference between what the committee has been told in oral evidence and the account published in the Daily Mail’.

Our audit of more than 800 cameras – carried out by an undercover reporter who had access to the system when working at the South Mimms control room in Hertfordshire – showed 112 were faulty, unusable or pointing in the wrong direction.

On one stretch of smart motorway on the M25 – where at least three deaths have been partly blamed on the roads – almost half of the cameras were broken or facing the wrong way.

The Mail’s findings, published last month, contradict evidence given by Baroness Vere and Mr Harris to cross-party MPs investigating the safety of smart motorways in June. 

Mrs Mercer, 44 (pictured left with late husband Jason)  urged MPs on to ‘sit up and take notice’ of the Mail’s chilling findings

The roads minister insisted operators working in control centres could bring up any CCTV camera ‘in a flash’. National Highways boss Mr Harris also boasted to the transport committee that smart motorways had ‘more than 100 per cent’ CCTV coverage.

Mrs Mercer is organising a protest through Parliament Square on November 1. And Mr McMahon urged the Government to ‘reinstate the hard shoulder while proper scrutiny of the failings exposed in the system is carried out’.

A DfT spokesman said: ‘We’ve received National Highways’s initial update on its investigation and will urgently consider its preliminary findings while we await its full report.’

National Highways said it does not recognise the data from the Mail’s CCTV audit and said the camera network is just one of several safety elements. But Mr Harris said: ‘We are investigating the Daily Mail’s allegations as a matter of urgency.’

The transport committee said preparation for the report was too far advanced to comment. 

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