Scrap smart motorway to ‘avoid more deaths’, South Yorkshire Police chief says

Matt Mathers
·2-min read

A police chief is calling for a smart motorway to be axed following a number of deaths and serious accidents in South Yorkshire.

Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), said a stretch of the M1 in the area that has no hard shoulder poses a "constant danger".

His comments came after the force announced it is to examine inquest documents relating to two deaths on a section of the smart motorway which also has no hard shoulder.

Jason Mercer, 44, and Alexandru Murgeanu, 22, died in June 2019 when lorry driver Prezemyslaw Szuba crashed into their vehicles on the M1 near Sheffield.

Police are working to establish whether there is any need for "further criminal investigations".

Dr Billings said there had been another serious crash on the motorway last Friday, resulting in a car occupant being airlifted to hospital.

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He has repeatedly criticised the smart motorway and has written to transport secretary Grant Schnapps calling on him to scrap it.

"I do not believe there is anyone who uses this stretch of the motorway, as I do, who does not feel anxious when driving along it," said Dr Billings.

"I call upon the minister and Highways England to abandon this type of smart motorway before we have more serious injuries or fatalities."

Last week a coroner investigating the death of 62-year-old grandmother Nargis Begum on the smart motorway referred Highways England to the Crown Prosecution Service to consider if corporate manslaughter charges were appropriate.

She died on a stretch of the M1 without a hard shoulder in South Yorkshire, near Woodall Services, in September 2018.

Last month a coroner examining the deaths of Mr Mercer and Mr Murgeanu concluded that smart motorways "present an ongoing risk of future deaths".

Sheffield coroner David Urpeth concluded both men's primary cause of death was the careless driving of Mr Szuba.

But recording a conclusion of the unlawful killing, Mr Urpeth added that a "lack of hard shoulder contributed to this tragedy".

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