Lawyers are working on a High Court legal challenge calling for Smart motorways to be scrapped after two men were knocked down and killed at the roadside by an HGV.

Solicitors at Irwin Mitchell said the safety of the all lanes running (ALR) initiative had been called into question several times and the number of deaths on these routes across the country was now “a major cause for concern".

ALR is one of a suite of tools transport chiefs have been using to control traffic and ease congestion on motorways, along with variable speed limits and dynamic hard shoulder running.

But following five deaths in 10 months on 16 miles of the M1 in South Yorkshire where ALR is present, pressure is growing on the government to review the strategy.

Jason Mercer was killed by a lorry near junction 34 of the M1 shortly after he had been involved in a minor collision with Alexandru Murgreanu in June 2019.

Both men pulled over as far as they could to exchange details but after they left their vehicles an HGV collided with the pair and they were pronounced dead at the scene.

Mercer’s wife Claire has now instructed Irwin Mitchell to investigate bringing a legal case against Highways England, calling for the use of smart motorways to be halted.

Helen Smith, solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, said: “The transport select committee has previously published a report warning that the government should not go ahead with all lane running motorways because they posed a dangerous risk to drivers and emergency services.

Read more

“Through our initial investigations and the increasing amount of families which have been torn apart because of fatalities on smart motorways, it is clear that a full and urgent review of their use needs to be completed.”

Meanwhile, Mercer’s MP Sarah Champion led a Parliamentary debate challenging the government to improve safety on Smart motorways, or face the prospect of more deaths.

She said: “There is no evidence that shows me that ALR can ever be delivered safely. I therefore strongly believe the government must stop the rollout with immediate effect.”

Responding on behalf of the government, George Freeman MP said he accepted there were issues and suggested that it might create a task force to listen to concerns.

Champion added: “This is simply not good enough. People are dying. This was predicted.

“The government was warned of the consequences before the rollout even began. How many more needless deaths will there be before safety is put ahead of the bottom line?”

A Highways England spokeswoman said: “The transport secretary has asked the department for transport to carry out, at pace, an evidence stocktake to gather the facts about smart motorway safety.

“We are committed to safety and are supporting the department in its work on this.”

Meanwhile, in response to a report by BBC Panorama, which raises concerns about the safety of smart motorways and indicates reform is imminent, Chris Yarsley, FTA policy manager for road infrastructure said: “We're calling on the government to take measures to improve the safety of smart motorways.

"FTA’s members have found these roads to be effective in producing more reliable journey times – providing a tangible benefit to the UK economy – but the safety of road users must always take priority.

“FTA welcomes suggestions of increased SOS areas and intelligent radar technology, but consistent and robust enforcement of the rules, and more public education, is what is needed to make them work, in the view of hauliers. Smart motorways can be confusing to even the most experienced drivers.

“By reforming smart motorways and ensuring drivers are comfortable with the way they work, we can ensure the UK benefits from a safer, more effective and efficient road network.”