The Transport Committee has slammed government plans to roll out all-lane running systems to 300 miles of UK motorways.

All-lane running, which sees the hard shoulder become a live traffic lane, has traditionally been used to ease congestion on the strategic road network.

However the DfT now plans to convert 300 miles of hard shoulder to running lanes on a permanent basis over the next nine years, to tackle predicted surges in road congestion.

The select committee has today released a report stating that the proposition was “a radical change and an unacceptable price to pay for such improvements”.

The report said: “The all-lane running design has been chosen on the basis of cost savings, and it is not acceptable for the [DfT] to proceed with a less safe design, putting people’s lives at risk, in order to cut costs.”

Rob Flello MP, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Freight Transport, told Motortransport.co.uk he thought the move was “an absolute disgrace”.

He said: “The government are trying to bring in all-lane running on the cheap and they’re putting peoples’ lives at risk, and they’re trying - very disreputably in my opinion - to hide the risks.

“In my point of view, it’s an absolute disgrace that the government thought they could get away with this. A young woman lost her life on the M25 in all-lane running a few weeks ago, and I think people should be asking serious questions of the government about why it’s putting their lives at risk.”

Flello added that HGV drivers face double the risk if the hard shoulder is removed as a safety net for road users.

He said: “They’re at risk if they have a break down because the emergency refuge areas are not adequately designed for their vehicles.

“And also, if they strike a vehicle that’s become stranded under the all-lane system that hasn’t had anywhere to pull into, then the driver is going to be traumatised at the very least, if not injured or killed themselves. So it’s putting professional drivers at double the risk, really.”

Louise Ellman MP, chairwoman of the Transport Committee, said the body was concerned by “unacceptably low” levels of public awareness around all-lane running schemes and compliance with ‘red X’ signals.

She said the committee would need to see more emergency refuge areas and greater driver education and enforcement before it endorsed “the extension of a scheme which risks putting motorists in harm's way”.

DfT response

A DfT spokesperson said: “Our motorways are among the safest in the world, and cutting the number of accidents is our top priority. All-lane running roads are designed to be as safe as ordinary motorways.

“In the two all-lane running sections on the M25, accidents were down 17% and casualty rates fell by 21% in the first year.

“As the committee recognise, the busiest journey times have almost halved, and overall journey times are more reliable and predictable than before. We will be considering all the Transport Committee’s findings carefully and responding shortly.”