2021 items

Smart motorway rollout is the way ahead, do we REALLY need a hard shoulder that much?
select for full details M27 closures as Highways England continues smart motorway
DRIVERS are being warned about closures on the M27 as Highways England continue constructing the £244m smart motorway.
By Ben Fishwick 28 Feb 2021

A Highways England statement said: 'Road users are being reminded to plan ahead if they are intending on using the M27 in Hampshire next month month due to a series of overnight closures in both directions to allow essential work to take place.' 'This will happen between junction 4 for the M3 interchange and junction 11 for the Wallington interchange.

'They will be between 9pm-6am starting tomorrow, March 1. The closures stop on March 21.

It added: 'Drivers needing to use the M27 while the closures are in place are advised to plan ahead and leave extra time for their journeys.'

'All diversions will be fully signed, and closures are subject to change depending on operational requirements or adverse weather conditions.'

It comes as the House of Commons Transport Select Committee has started an inquiry into smart motorways following growing concerns about existing projects.      Go to the thread

select for full details Does Highways England really have no duty of care to motorists?
It has been widely reported that Highways England is facing possible corporate manslaughter charges. However, its barrister has already revealed the defence strategy, it seems.
By Construction I 15 Feb 2021

Last week Doncaster coroner Nicola Mundy adjourned the inquest into the death of 62-year-old Nargis Begum, killed on the M1, and referred Highways England to the Crown Prosecution Service.

The death of Nargis Begum, killed while trying to escape from her car 16 minutes after it had broken down on a section of so-called smart motorway, is not the first time that smart motorways have come under the spotlight. The mounting public and political outcry over smart motorways prompted Grant Shapps to conduct a review last year before any further such motorway 'upgrades'. However, the roll-out continues with only minor adjustments.

Officially, they are called 'smart' because they feature technology that supposedly monitors traffic flow and variable message boards flash up temporary speed restrictions for optimum traffic flow, to prevent stop-start congestion.

Smarter still, they are a way of increasing motorway capacity on the cheap by removing the hard shoulder to gain an extra running lane. Last year it emerged that the sporadic refuge zones that are meant to be provided at 500-metre intervals are in fact typically 2.5km apart. Another cunning saving by smart Highways England.

A scandalously under-reported feature of smart motorways is that the technology paves the way for automatic pay-as-you-go road tolls on motorways to compensate for the impending loss of £28bn fuel tax revenue that the Treasury will lose when we are all driving electric cars.

But no one, nowhere, has ever sought to claim that smart motorways are specifically designed to improve road safety.

In fact, the biggest revelation of last week came from Highways England's barrister Nicholas Chapman who said that the company has 'no duty of care to motorists' and had no reason to monitor traffic for stranded vehicles.

Is this really the basis of Highways England's defence? That it has no responsibility to road safety? This is big news and worth investigating.

So we asked Highways England for further clarification on this point. Is it true that Highways England has no duty of care to motorists, we asked.

The spokesperson declined to answer directly but he supplied us with this statement: 'Safety is Highway England's number one priority and we always work to make the strategic road network safer.'      Go to the thread

select for full details Highways England referred to CPS over M1 smart motorway death
Prosecutors asked to consider corporate manslaughter charges after death of Nargis Begum, 62.
By PA Media 12 Feb 2021

A coroner investigating a smart motorway death has referred Highways England to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to consider whether corporate manslaughter charges are appropriate.

Nargis Begum, 62, from Sheffield, died on a stretch of the M1 without a hard shoulder in South Yorkshire, near Woodhall services, in September 2018.

She had got out of a broken-down Nissan Qashqai car and was waiting for help when another vehicle collided with the Nissan, causing it to plough into her.

At a pre-inquest review hearing at Doncaster coroner's court on Thursday, senior coroner Nicola Mundy said the length of time the stationary vehicle went undetected was among the reasons for her decision. Mundy was told at a previous hearing that 16 minutes elapsed between the Nissan breaking down and the collision. It took a further six minutes before warning signs were activated.

Outlining other factors in her referral of the case to the CPS, Mundy described how 'nobody has responsibility for monitoring cameras' relaying footage of smart motorways.

She added that there was a 'distinct lack of knowledge and education of drivers in the region' in relation to how the onus was on them to report incidents.

Companies found guilty of corporate manslaughter face unlimited fines, according to the Sentencing Council.

A spokesman for Highways England said: 'Our deepest sympathies are with the family of Mrs Begum, and all those affected by this tragic incident. Although we do not believe Highways England has committed any offence we will of course cooperate fully in any investigation.'

The Nissan was being driven by Begum's husband, Mohammed Bashir, 67, when it broke down.      Go to the thread

select for full details 'Deaths unavoidable' on city's smart motorways - with 'nowhere safe' for broken down drivers to stop
Lawyer who worked on M6 tragedy speaks amid Commons probe into motorways which run with no hard shoulder
By Stephanie Balloo 2 March 2021

Crash deaths are 'unavoidable' on Birmingham's smart motorways as there is nowhere safe for broken-down drivers to stop, a lawyer has warned.

Manjinder Singh Kang, of motoring specialists Kang and Co, said the M6 was an 'accident waiting to happen' after working on a case involving the tragic death of a van driver.

The motorist died in a five-vehicle crash after he was forced to stop in live traffic between junctions six and five as there was no hard shoulder.

But no-one involved in the pile-up was prosecuted as there was nowhere for oncoming traffic to go when faced with a stationary vehicle on a 70mph carriageway. The collision was "unavoidable" because of the lack of a hard shoulder, Mr Kang said. The lawyer, who worked on the M6 case four years ago, called for safer measures to be implemented by Highways England before more deaths were caused.

Mr Kang spoke as an investigation into the safety of smart motorways was launched by the House of Commons' Transport Select Committee.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the committee earlier this month that he "inherited" smart motorways, and pledged to get "get rid of confusions".

These include "insane" dynamic hard shoulders, which switch between being used for emergencies and live traffic depending on demand.

He published a smart motorways action plan with 18 measures to boost safety.

"A person will be charged with death by careless driving if their driving falls below the required standard of a careful and competent motorist," Mr Kang explained.

"For death by dangerous driving, the standard would have to fall far below that of a careful and competent motorist."      Go to the thread

2019 items

select for full details HEAVY SNOW: drivers left stranded overnight on M3
Hundreds of cars were stranded overnight on the M3 last night after heavy snowfall battered the south of England.
By Megan White 4 Feb, 2019
Sleet and snow also affected highways across Kent and Hampshire, and causing treacherous conditions.

There were reports of drivers stuck past midnight on the A21, A229 and A249 in Kent, as well as the A339, A30 and M3 in Hampshire.

One motorist who gave his name as Joey told the BBC he was forced to eat snow off the roof of his car after he became trapped on the M3.

Drivers were forced to abandon their cars near Basingstoke after the motorway was closed in places and three lorries jack-knifed.

According to Highways England, police worked until 2am today to free vehicles from the M3 near Basingstoke.

Kent Police tweeted it had had an "incredibly busy night" with "numerous" collisions and stranded cars.

Some motorists were stuck for up to six hours after four inches of snow fell in Hampshire.

Grand Tour presenter James May and scientist Brian Cox were among those trapped in the 12-mile tailbacks.

Office manager Brooke Welling, 31, was travelling from Uxbridge to Bridport, Dorset, when she became stuck on the westbound M3.

She told the Standard: "I left Uxbridge after checking traffic reports for my route and genuinely thought there was a possibility that the red road marker showing on the sat nav at Basingstoke would have cleared by the time I reached it."

select for full details Top marks for Highways England visit to Birdlip Primary School
Highways England traffic officers proved to be a real 'class' act when they dropped in to see pupils at Birdlip Primary School near Gloucester
By GOV UK 24 Jan, 19

Traffic officers Lynne Watkins and Dave Hayett, who normally spend their days patrolling the M5 in Gloucestershire, took time out to visit the primary school as part of a Highways England awareness day.

During the visit this week, five and six-year-old pupils got the chance to chat to the traffic officers about their jobs and see their patrol vehicle and the equipment used every day as they patrol England's major A roads and motorways.

Birdlip Primary School teacher, Sue Harding, said:

"Children's learning is always enhanced by real life, hands-on experiences and the children really enjoyed meeting the traffic officers and hearing about the important role they play keeping people safe on the M5."

Around 30 pupils took part in the session and had a chance to sit in the traffic officers' vehicle and try out the controls.

Highways England traffic officer, Lynne Watkins, said:

"This visit offered a great opportunity to explain our work and raise the issue of road safety with a young and very enthusiastic audience."

select for full details M3 closed: Entire town blocked off by snow as blizzards cause motorway shutdown
Many residents in Basingstoke have been left stranded, unable to reach their homes without abandoning cars and walking to escape freezing conditions
By Abigail O'Leary 1 Feb, 2019

the M3 has been closed in parts as heavy snow continues to hammer the UK.

Hundreds of cars have been stuck on the M3 motorway for hours, as three lorries jack-knifed while struggling to cope with snow-covered inclines on the road.

Now, the M3 has been closed between junction 6 and 7 as conditions continue to get worse.

Traffic monitoring system Inrix described many roads in Hampshire and Surrey as "hazardous", reports Surrey Live.

police cars trying to reach stranded drivers were struggling to negotiate the adverse weather conditions.

The Met Office yellow weather warning for snow and ice remain in force for many parts across the country - with a new yellow warning for snow being issued for London and the surrounding areas between 4pm and 8pm.

In other parts of the country, travellers experienced chaos with trains and airports - as services were shut down and cancelled.

select for full details Bearwood PCSO police chase death
A man has appeared in court charged with killing an off-duty PCSO whose car was hit by a vehicle being pursued by police.
By BBC NEWS 24 Jan, 2019

Holly Burke, 28, was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash in Lordswood Road, Birmingham, on Tuesday night.

Darren Ogom, 42, did not enter a plea to a charge of causing death by dangerous driving when he appeared at Birmingham Magistrates' Court.

He was remanded in custody to appear at the city's crown court on 21 February.

Mr Ogom spoke only to confirm his name, address and nationality during a five-minute hearing.

He is accused of causing Ms Burke's death by driving a silver Renault Megane Scenic dangerously.

Police said the vehicle had been involved in a 15-minute police pursuit before it collided with Ms Burke's car in the Bearwood area of the city.

Mr Ogom, of Longdales Road, Kings Norton, also faces charges of driving without a licence, driving with no insurance and failing to stop for a police officer.

select for full details Norway plans to build submerged, floating road tunnel across deep fjord
in a world first, Norway is planning to build a submerged, floating tunnel to allow road traffic to cross one of its deepest fjords.
By Nick Squires 4 Feb, 2019

The tunnel will resemble two giant drinking straws, with each end anchored to the sides of the inlet, Sognefjord.

The tubes, one for each direction of traffic, will be attached to floating pontoons spaced about 800ft apart.

The fjord has a depth of more than 4,000ft, making it too deep for engineers to tunnel beneath it.

Instead, the floating tunnel will be suspended about 100ft beneath the surface of the water.

That will enable ships to easily pass over it, while there will be more than enough room beneath for the passage of submarines. The unusual tunnel is part of an ambitious project to nearly halve the time it takes to drive one of the country's main road arteries - the E39, a highway which runs for almost 700 miles from Trondheim in the far north to Kristiansand in the south.

At present, the highway is interrupted seven times, where drivers have to put their cars on ferries to cross fjords.

"It's nearly 1,100km from end to end - but the journey takes 21 hours on a good day, because of the seven ferry crossings en route. By 2035 we should have cut that to 11 hours by replacing the ferries with fixed crossings," Kjersti Kvalheim Dunham, programme manager for Norway's Public Roads Administration, told a recent engineering festival.

2018 items

select for full details Highways England - Traffic Officer Ride Out
Energy Saving Trust looking at ways of reducing emissions from Traffic Officer Vehicles
By Tim Anderson 6 Nov, 2018

Energy Saving Trust works to helps people save energy when they're at home and on the move. One of our key areas of expertise is working with businesses to help them manage the emissions from their fleet. Energy Saving Trust is working with Highways England to do just that.

We've all seen the ubiquitous Traffic Officer Vehicles, which patrol the motorways up and down the country. These hard working vehicles and their crews are there to keep traffic moving and ensure the roads are safe places for everyone to use.

Energy Saving Trust is looking at ways of reducing the emissions from these Traffic Officer Vehicles. In particular, we are examining whether ultra-low emission vehicles (i.e. electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids) could be deployed to help reduce fuel costs and emissions. But there are some challenges.

Highways England needs a vehicle that does it all. As well as being reliable, safe and comfortable, it needs to be able to tow heavy vehicles off the carriageway, carry large amounts of heavy kit and be all-weather capable. Highways England officers currently use large 4x4 vehicles to meet these needs, but they have fuel consumption and emissions to match. Highways England is committed to investigating alternatives.

As part of the project, I have been working with the Highways England lead, Matthew Leeder, to engage with the Traffic Officer Service team to understand how the vehicles are used. I joined the team at Knutsford outstation in Cheshire at 6am on a rainy morning in November for the early shift to get the full experience. Welcoming me aboard the Mitsubishi Shogun were Traffic Officers Martin Wallace and Dean (Deano) Schnieders.

Once the morning briefing was complete, the vehicle inspection took place with a walk around the vehicle to check all the kit was stowed.

select for full details 'Fake ambulance' pulled over by Swansea police
An "apparently fake" ambulance vehicle was pulled over as it was being driven by a man in Swansea, police have said.
By BBC NEWS 13 Nov, 2018

The estate car, which was covered in highly-visible paint and logos, was stopped at Penclawdd, Gower, on Monday.

The 19-year-old driver was held on suspicion of driving whilst disqualified, with no insurance and other offences.

The Welsh Ambulance Service confirmed it was not one of its vehicles and the driver was not an employee.

Twitter "Male arrested this morning for driving this ambulance in Penclawdd for driving whilst disqualified/no insurance+other offences. Great team work by #team3townhill @SWP_Roads #GowerNPT + @WelshAmbulance.Please note this is not a @WelshAmbulance vehicle nor is the driver an employee"

select for full details BMW driver gets six points on licence after waving arms out of window
'Careless' driver handed fine and penalty points after taking hands off wheel and waving them out of the window - right behind traffic officers
By Shropshire Star 15 Nov, 2018

A 'careless' BMW driver has been handed six points on his licence on top of a fine after waving his arms out of the window - while behind Highways England traffic officers.

Video recorded by a Highways England vehicle show Jeremy Dillon, 51, of Hespek Raise, Carlisle, following close to a car heading a rolling roadblock in place to allow an obstruction at junction 44 of the northbound M6 to be removed.

Officers said Dillon's proximity and lane change during the incident on May 4 gave them the impression he was trying to get past the roadblock. Having followed the traffic officers, Dillon can then be seen taking his hands off the wheel then waving them out of the window.

Interviewed by Cumbria Constabulary, he initially told police officers he felt his driving wasn't careless - before being shown the footage. He then accepted that the distance between his car and the Highways England vehicle amounted to driving without due care and attention.

He said he couldn't recall sticking his hands out of the window, but admitted it was a "stupid act" and couldn't provide a reason other than being annoyed at the roadblock.

He was due to appear in court on November 6 but pleaded guilty by post to a charge of careless driving. Along with the penalty points, Dillon also received a £286 fine.

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America leads the way on Three Strikes Laws

Should the UK follow that lead?

welcome to Prison Officers .Org.UK The state of Washington passed the first three strikes law in 1993. Anyone convicted of three separate violent felonies was then sentenced to life in prison with no chance for Parole. The state of California followed, in 1994, by enacting a three strikes law that mandates a sentence of 25 years to life for a third felony conviction. Unlike Washington, the California law counted nonviolent felonies, such as Burglary and theft, as "strike" offenses. The popularity of the three strikes law in California was pronounced. By 2001 over 50,000 criminals had been sentenced under the new law, far more than any other state, with almost one-quarter of the inmates facing a minimum of 25 years in prison.welcome to Prison Officers .Org.UK Not surprisingly, California's law has drawn the most attention in the debate over three strikes statutes.

Should the UK follow that lead?

Back here in the UK, we have plenty of criminals who are career criminals, so many "catch me if you can" career criminals, simply return to their criminal ways virtually as soon as they are let out of prison (again)

The UK's Revolving Door Justice System serves the public poorly

Spending money to keep society safe is money well spent and that is THREE STRIKES in a nutshell. 25 years have passed since America started the process of introducing THREE STRIKES Laws. Isn't it about time that the UK at least began TALKING about THREE STRIKES?

2018 items

Meanwhile over in the U S A, California
select for full details California Highway Patrol may have used Tesla's Autopilot feature to stop driver asleep at the wheel
Redwood City California Highway Patrol stopped a Tesla Model 3 they suspected was running Autopilot with a drunk driver asleep at the wheel.
By Dami Lee 3 Dec, 2018

The incident occurred last Friday, November 30th at 3:37AM PT, when officers observed a car going 70 mph on Highway 101 with a driver that appeared to be asleep.

After flashing their lights and sirens in an attempt to pull the car over, the officers deployed a strategy based around their assumption that the Tesla Model 3 was running on Autopilot. According to the CHP incident report, two unit cars pulled up in front and behind the Tesla to get the car to gradually come to a stop, after a seven-mile chase. A statement from the CHP reads, "We cannot confirm at this time if the 'driver assist' feature was activated but considering the vehicle's ability to slow to a stop when the driver was asleep, it appears the 'driver assist' feature may have been active at the time."

It's difficult to determine whether Autopilot was actually on at the time, as the feature requires drivers to keep a firm grip on the steering wheel for it to stay engaged. It's possible that the driver may have had another Tesla Model 3 feature on, like Traffic Aware Cruise Control, which manages speed against the car in front of the Tesla.

It's not clear which exact feature was engaged, as Teslas have several different autonomous driving features and it can be confusing to keep track of all of them. Most people, even cops and some Tesla drivers, aren't totally sure what Teslas can do. Tesla warns that Autopilot is only meant to be used on highways, and still requires the driver to remain fully alert while driving, but cases like these show that drivers will continue to abuse Autopilot features and misinterpret them as 'self-driving.'

select for full details Driver, 71, caused death of pub landlady and friend when he parked in motorway 'fast lane'
Two women were killed when a van ploughed into the car they were in after the driver inexplicably parked in the 'fast' lane of a motorway as he was trying to get to Birmingham Airport.
By David Banner 22 Nov, 2018

Car driver James Graham Davies, from Welshpool, had become disorientated because of diversions on the M42 - and had stopped to ask a Highways Agency worker on the opposite carriageway for directions.
He pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court earlier this month to causing the deaths of Welshpool pub landlady Barbara Jones and his own partner Christine Evans by dangerous driving.

At the resumed hearing Davies, 71, of Sguar Heulwen, Welshpool, was jailed for two years and four months and banned from driving for 11 years and two months, after which he will have to take an extended test to get his licence back.

Prosecutor Simon Davis said the case centred on events on January 5 this year at 3.18am on the M42 northbound between junctions 9 and 10 in Warwickshire.

Highways Agency employee Jake Ashmore was parked in his vehicle on the southbound carriageway, which was closed that night for maintenance work, with its orange warning lights flashing, when there was a tap on his window.
It was Davies, who began asking him for directions, and Mr Ashmore "looked across and saw the defendant's vehicle parked in the outside lane of the northbound carriageway".
Davies, who with his partner Christine Evans had been taking Barbara Jones and her partner Gareth Isaac to Birmingham airport, had left his passengers in his Vauxhall Meriva.

select for full details Q and A: Hiring the messenger - Highways England's telecommunications
This autumn saw the completion of the handover phase of the £450m National Roads Telecommunications Service 2 (NRTS2) contract, which Highways England awarded to telent Technology Services Ltd in late 2017.
By Dom Browne 6 Nov, 2018

NRTS2 provides the telecommunications backbone that enables the national road network operator's seven regional control centres across the country and its national traffic operations centre to connect to the strategic road network's (SRN's) 30,000 roadside technology assets - including message signs, CCTV cameras and emergency roadside telephones including smart motorways.

The contract started on 16 March 2018 and runs for seven years. In the first six months of the contract, services were transitioned safely and successfully over to telent.

Transport Network speaks to Kevin Hamer, head of programme, national road telecommunications services information and technology at Highways England about this massive project and the improvements it can bring to the SRN.

Q - How does the system feed into the smart motorway network and its real-time management of issues such as traffic flow and stop vehicle detection?

The NRTS2 service must provide a 24/7 365 day a year, highly reliable and resilient service to our regional control centres and traffic information services. This enables them to provide accurate, real-time travel information to drivers and travel news providers; it also enables the operation of technology on our smart motorways, which helps smooth the flow of traffic and provide a safer, improved service to our road users.

select for full details Highways England: union slams DfT company's 'insulting' 1% pay offer
Union says Highways England chief received 9.7% rise last year
By CSW World 29 Nov, 2018

Highways England has drawn fire from the civil service's biggest union for offering staff a 1% pay rise - well below the controversial 1.5% cap that government departments are currently subject to.

As a government-owned company, or GovCo, Highways England is not bound by the latest HM Treasury and Cabinet Office guidance on pay increases and could choose to offer its 5,000-plus staff a cap-busting rise if it wanted to and could afford the move.

But the PCS union said the company, which is accountable to the Department for Transport had made an "insulting" offer to rank-and-file workers when its annual report and accounts revealed its chief executive Jim O'Sullivan had received a 9.7% rise between 2016-17 and 2017-18. O'Sullivan's current pay is listed as £402,576 in the document.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said staff were considering all of their options, including industrial action.