THE planned smart motorway work near Winchester has been temporarily postponed following a transport select committee report, published earlier this month.

National Highways have postponed the work on the central reservation between junctions nine at Winnall and 14 near Southampton of the M3 after preparatory work had started. The smart motorway work would follow.

It was reported today (November 22) by New Civil Engineer that National Highways have written to Balfour Beatty, who were doing the work, to say that it is being postponed.

The statement from National Highways, with the Smart Motorway Programme (SMP) Alliance and the Department for Transport, said it is actively considering the select committee’s findings and recommendations.

It said: “While this work is undertaken, National Highways have announced they are temporarily postponing the planned start of work to upgrade the M3 central reservation barrier between junctions nine and 14.

“We will continue to keep everyone in the SMP Alliance updated with further information when available.”

National Highways smart motorways programme director David Bray said: “We have temporarily paused planned works on the M3 between junctions 9 and 14. This is while we and the Department for Transport consider the findings and recommendations of the recently-published Transport Select Committee’s inquiry into the safety and rollout of smart motorways.

“We will provide an update in due course.”

The Chronicle recently reported that the work, which is costing £139 million, had almost completed its preparations with the start on the central reservation originally due to start before the end of the year.

As well as this, a contractors compound is being constructed with an entrance to this is directly off Badgers Farm Road with the exit onto Otterbourne Road.

The postponement follows the transport select committee report, published at the start of November, which questioned the safety of the smart motorway work nationally.

The committee’s report said: “The Government and National Highways should pause the rollout of new all-lane running schemes until five years of safety and economic data is available for every all-lane running scheme introduced before 2020 and the implementation of the safety improvements in the Government’s action plan has been independently evaluated.”

In response to the report, a Department of Transport spokesperson said: “We welcome the Transport Committee’s scrutiny and will now consider its recommendations in detail, providing a formal response in due course. This is a serious piece of work which we will engage with closely in the months ahead.

“We’re pleased that the TSC recognises that reinstating the hard shoulder on all all-lane running motorways could put more drivers and passengers at risk of death and serious injury and that we’re right to focus on upgrading their safety, as the Secretary of State committed to doing when he became Transport Secretary.

“We recognise that improvements have not always been made as quickly as they could have been in the past, but as the committee has set out, the Transport Secretary is absolutely committed to making Smart Motorways as safe as possible, including committing £500 million on upgrades and the faster rollout of Stopped Vehicle Detection.

Councillor Rob Humby, Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Economy, Transport and Environment at Hampshire County Council, said: “It will be for National Highways to comment on any postponement of its smart motorway construction on the M3 between junction 9 and 14. When we have been informed of their plans, we will be able to consider if, and how, this will impact the local road network in Hampshire. However, we hope that the improvement project for Junction 9 will proceed, as this is a high priority for Winchester and for the movement of goods to and from the port of Southampton to the rest of the country.”

Eleanor Bell, former Winchester city councillor, said: “I have always been concerned about the safety of so-called smart motorways, but especially the cost cutting lower safety standards being employed more recently.

“When smart motorways, or all lane running, was first introduced on M25 and around Birmingham, there were stringent rules on the location of  cameras and warning signals on overhead gantries and the frequency of roadside refuges.  These regulations were severely diluted on the later rollout programme, until public outrage forced a rethink.  But we still do not have the highest safety standards for the M27 and M3 works.

“The government Select Committee on Safety recommended a pause in the rollout some weeks ago.  National Highways’ response was that M3  works were too advanced to halt.  I am glad that they have been made to think again.

“Despite the safety assurances given, and whatever your views on the necessity for yet more road infrastructure as opposed to rail and bus, using the hard shoulder as a fourth lane is a cheaper option than widening the motorway.  And even if all cameras and overhead signals are functioning and being monitored, which is not always the case, stopped vehicles are still being crashed into and emergency vehicles are still having difficulty reaching the stranded motorists.”

Balfour Beatty were approached, but directed the Chronicle to National Highways, formerly Highways England.