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Motorway Safety

Volume 575: debated on Thursday 6 February 2014

Motorways are the safest roads in the country. The Highways Agency network carries 32.7% of all traffic, but accounts for only 6.8% of those killed or seriously injured. Hard-shoulder running on smart motorways is delivering further improvements.

Does the Minister not accept that opening a stretch of hard shoulder permanently, while reducing the amount of signage and the number of emergency refuge areas on our managed motorways, is an example of the Government giving reduced costs a higher priority than road safety?

The hon. Gentleman has got it completely wrong. I know that this seems counter-intuitive, but 8% of fatalities take place on the hard shoulders of existing motorways, although only a very small proportion of traffic is on them. Hard-shoulder running, managed motorways and smart motorways have been a great success, and have reduced the number of accidents on those sections of the motorway by 50%.

I agree with my hon. Friend that the standard of safety on motorways is very high, but he and I would both benefit from improved safety on the A64. Will he update the House on the progress that is being made with better road improvements, less congestion and the easing of traffic on the A64 between York and Scarborough?

I suppose that I should declare an interest, as the Member of Parliament for Scarborough.

We have tripled spending on road projects since we came to power, which will mean that roads such as the A64 are likely to have a much better chance of improving. In the short term, I am interested to note that a trial that is taking place on the A9 in Scotland, where the speed limit for lorries is being increased from 40 to 50 mph. We hope that will reduce the number of nasty accidents caused by people overtaking in dangerous places.

Indeed. There is a degree of ingenuity about the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Miss McIntosh) with which I am very familiar.

13. The great British pub is well sited in many places, but I suggest that junction 2 of the M40—or, indeed, any other motorway junction—is not one of them. Organisations such as Brake are firmly against the siting of a pub there, and a survey from the RAC has now shown that two thirds of the British public are against it as well. Will the Minister please look into this issue? It is nonsense to have a pub at a motorway service station. (902425)

I understand that the pub in that particular case is at a motorway service area that is served by other roads as well as the motorway, and these decisions are a matter for local authorities. Every pub in the country is served by a road, and it is up to drivers to act responsibly and ensure that they do not drink and drive.

Does my hon. Friend share my concern that expecting the police to enforce the proposed new offence of smoking in cars with children present will divert them away from other duties, which could have a direct impact on motorway safety?

That is probably a matter for the Secretary of State for Health. There will be a free vote on Monday on that subject, and I will certainly be voting to ban smoking in cars where children are present, having had to sit in the back of the car at a young age feeling green and carsick while my father was puffing away.