Safety

I read with great interest and dismay, the article in a recent issue concerning the use of the M5 hard shoulder.

I read with great interest and dismay, the article in a recent issue concerning the use of the M5 hard shoulder. Before Cllr Mike Bell glibly gives his consent and backing to such a move, there are a few facts that he should carefully consider.I note the words quicker and cheaper are included, but also note that the word safety is omitted. The hard shoulder is considered the most dangerous lane on the motorway and more deaths occur in this lane than any other.We are constantly advised to leave our vehicles and make our way over the crash barrier and as far from the hard shoulder as possible and here we are advocating that we use the hard shoulder as a running lane. The refuges are to be located at 500m intervals, hard luck therefore, if your car becomes immobilised and cannot reach a refuge.Should an accident or a breakdown take place then very often it is only the hard shoulder, which provides access for emergency service and breakdown vehicles. The Highways Agency counters this argument by stating that these vehicles can force their way through or attempt to use a parallel road.How much longer are they going to continue living in never, never land?The Highways Agency have already demonstrated their total disregard for motorists' safety by merging lanes three and four at 70mph, on stretches of the M5 in North Somerset, where they have already widened it and most drivers will have seen the skid marks, near misses and actual accidents that this has caused.When the Highways Agency decided to widen the M5 past Portbury, as villagers, we were assured that we would not suffer any increased noise or pollution as the vehicles would be moving quicker than at present! If this hair brained scheme is adopted and implemented past the village, the current 10 lanes of traffic between the village and the docks will increase to a maximum of 12, plus according to your article, speed limits will be reduced to 50mph when the hard shoulder is in use. This will therefore totally negate the Highways Agency's argument of increased speed reducing noise and pollution, by artificially introducing a 50mph limit across the entire carriageway whilst the hard shoulder is open.During the construction phase of the fourth lane past Portbury, a concrete barrier was built under the Portbury footbridge and the hard shoulder was used as a running lane, you only have to see the damage and paint on the barrier to realise that the hard shoulder is not wide enough in many places. If our motorways are safe enough to use the hard shoulder as a running lane and a refuge is only required every half of a kilometre, why has the Highways Agency recruited an army of traffic officers at a capital cost of £70m and annual running costs of £75m, whose primary roll seems to be to pounce on any motorist who stops on the hard shoulder. If the funds were to be distributed to all police forces with motorways, to be used exclusively for motorway patrols, then we could have a greatly increased presence of professionals to ensure motorway safety. The extra police patrols would then have the resources to enforce greater lane discipline, reduce the 'I will not move out of middle lane syndrome', which in many cases, may well lead to the motorway not needing to be widened.Cllr Bell, on the face of it, the idea probably seems a good one, especially when it is backed by the Highways Agency, however the Highways Agency is only interested on quick cheap fixes, not safety and certainly any effect their actions may have on local communities.There are enough idiots on the motorways at the moment to help keep the population numbers artificially low, without the Highways Agency joining forces with them and helping out!Peter CookePriory Road, Portbury


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