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Lives 'Could Be At Risk' With M4 Hard Shoulder Development

M4 Hard Shoulder To Be Changed Into Fourth Lane Of Traffic


Serious injury experts at Irwin Mitchell’s Southampton office say that safety is the number one concern for planners after the chair of the Commons Transport Committee warns that lives could be at risk by Government plans to change the fourth lane of the M4.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling gave the green light to convert the 32-mile stretch of the highway from Hayes, west London, to Theale, Berkshire, to be widened from three lanes to four. This would mean taking away the hard shoulder. 

Labour’s Louise Ellman, chair of the Commons Transport Committee, has criticised the plan and has said that she thinks ‘lives could be put at risk.’  

She told The Press Association that “It ignores the need for a three-year trial period for safety considerations. The Transport Committee produced a highly critical report on this.

"Breakdown operators say they will not go to cover broken down vehicles as they are concerned about safety. There is also concern that there will be too few emergency refuges.”

Claire Howard, partner and serious injury solicitor at Irwin Mitchell’s Southampton office, said: 
Expert Opinion
“Whilst nobody can argue that expanding the motorway network and improving the flow of traffic for motorists along one of the busiest stretches of motorway in the country is not important, it is, in our view, crucially important to consider the safety implications of the proposed changes.

“The hard shoulder acts as a vital space for broken down vehicles to seek refuge from live motorway traffic. Occupants of broken down vehicles then have the opportunity to exit the vehicle and get to safety on the other side of the crash barrier.

“The hard shoulder also acts as a crucial facility for emergency services. When serious road traffic accidents occur, every passing minute can be a matter of life or death. If the traffic is queued up behind an accident, the hard shoulder gives the emergency services a way of reaching the scene quickly and safely.

“If the hard shoulder is removed even for a short section of motorway, this area of safety would no longer exist. Broken down vehicles would be left stranded on live carriageway, potentially causing far more significant delays that currently exist. Emergency service vehicles would also then be stranded in the queuing traffic. Even once they arrived on the scene, both breakdown operatives and emergency service personnel would have to work in the carriageway, exposing them to far greater risks that currently exist.

“As a firm, we act for a great number of clients who have been seriously injured on the motorways, and we see the enormous damage that can be caused as a result of an accident. Given this, we feel it is crucial that safety is the number one concern for road and traffic planners, and that risk to any road user should be minimised wherever possible.”
Claire Howard, Partner

As part of Irwin Mitchell’s commitment to road safety, the #SaferJourneys campaign aims to raise awareness of this throughout the year, from cycling in summer, to driving in the dark in winter. You can take a look at this here for more information.

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