Transport Secretary Grant Shapps MP has commissioned the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) to independently review safety data relating to smart motorways, amid growing concerns that the roads are dangerous.

In a written statement to Parliament, Shapps also said he was delaying the publication of a progress report from Highways England on smart motorway safety until the summer, despite recently telling MPs he would report back “very quickly”.

Shapps said: “Earlier this year, I asked for a one-year on report from Highways England detailing its progress in delivering the 18-point action plan and identifying actions that can be delivered ahead of schedule.

“I asked for this by 12 March 2021.

“Highways England has now provided my department with that anniversary report, and work is rapidly being completed to assess it, including stocktake actions, and to establish next steps.

“The report will be published by summer, once I am assured that the proposals are sufficiently robust.”

The transport secretary said the report included the latest safety evidence drawn from data and analysis of official statistics and he added: “There has been considerable public and media interest in understanding motorway accident and fatality data and I have commissioned the ORR to independently review the data to provide further analytical assurance and ensure that the conclusions arrived at are robust.”

In February, Shapps told the transport select committee it was “entirely wrong” that smart motorways were introduced without the right technology to make them safe, but he also ruled out scrapping them.

This was despite a coroner finding that the controversial measure presented an ongoing risk of future deaths and the South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner urging the transport secretary to abandon them.

Earlier this month, Highways England launched a public information campaign to educate motorists about what to do if their vehicle breaks down on a smart motorway.