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M23, the smart motorway that may never be…smart

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Two years! Two years we were told.

That was how long it would take to turn the tired M23 into a wider, modern example of how the new generation of motorways were to be.

So we would have to endure a few years of slow moving traffic in cramped lanes continuously blocked by breakdowns, we would cope we said in-between moaning some more about only being able to run our 1.6 litres at 50mph.

And as we approached the dawn of 2020 we should have been able to see the changes around us which would magically appear once the works were complete. Except we didn’t. In-fact what we saw made us more anxious than excited.

How could they possibly finish by Feb or March or even April? Answer, they couldn’t.

So ok some delays were to occur, nature of the business isn’t it? It seems a rarity for building works of any kind to finish on time (unless you are in China of course).

So we resign ourselves to the fact that we may not be able to use the bustling eight lanes of this super motorway till the end of the summer or even well into the autumn.

“we are left with a road that is gender neutral”

But wait, what’s this? Smart motorways are not safe? In-fact they could possibly be more dangerous than ones with a hard shoulder? When did we discover this? Why didn’t someone say something?

The truth is people did say something. There have been voices raised since the very idea of smart motorways were mentioned but they were shouted over by the, what seems to be, need for new ideas.

There is a real problem across the whole of the motorway network where smart motorways have been created and it is one that is so serious that it is a wonder that they ever got approved in the first place.

This is a road system that relies on one thing more than any. Humans to follow rules. Well there we go then, it’s going to fail straight away.

We are not built that way. We like to disobey and not follow rules. It makes us individuals doesn’t it?

But in the case of something as serious as a motorway where not following a rule can be the difference of life or death then it is not something to joke, mock or belittle. This is about peoples lives.

Which is why it is frightening that it has taken the lives of so many people before someone has taken a step back and finally said that these smart motorways need to be examined in more detail.

And thus we could be left with a real enigma with the M23. If a decision is not made on what to do about smart motorways before the works are completed then are we going to be left with an eight lane motorway that has ‘literally’ no rules. Will it even have the digital signage working to tell a driver if a lane is closed?

No hard shoulder, just spaced out areas to pull over (because of course when your car decides enough is enough it can always hang on the 800+ metres it needs to pull over, can’t it?).

Crawley’s MP Henry Smith has requested an urgent meeting with the Transport Secretary to address this very issue, but the reality is that a decision about the M23, as well as every other smart motorway across the country, will not be hurried.

What changes can they do that will address the problems? Shorter gaps between the areas you can pull off to? Return the hard shoulder and if so is that just a new paint job?

So it may come to be that we are left with a brand new looking road that is left being ‘gender neutral’ if someone doesn’t hurry things along quickly.

But things here do need to move along quickly, decisions need to be made and made soon, after all, it’s people lives at stake.

Henry Smith

Henry Smith MP: Stronger sentences for cruelty to animals

In his article this week Henry Smith MP talks about stronger sentences for cruelty to animals.

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Henry Smith MP

When I’m out and about listening to people in Crawley, one issue which tends to unite those usually on differing sides of the political spectrum is the necessity to increase the punishment for those who hurt animals needlessly.

Recently in Westminster I was pleased to meet with Battersea – the dog and cat rescue centre – to reiterate my support for Government proposals to extend the current maximum penalty for animal cruelty offences, specified under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, tenfold from six months imprisonment to five years.

This change would provide the justice system with the flexibility to treat the most shocking acts of animal cruelty much more seriously than it can at present. 

At Battersea’s event alongside a host of other MPs, we signed the organisation’s pledge board to highlight the strength of parliamentary support on this issue.

The Government already has a strong record on animal welfare and protection of animals. From the introduction of mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses – a campaign I led in Parliament – to banning the use of wild animals in travelling circuses, it is right that action has been taken.

Other measures I have supported have been the introduction of the world’s toughest bans on ivory sales to help stop the poaching of elephants, and the banning of commercial third party sales of puppies and kittens in England to end the terrible welfare conditions found in puppy farming.

I was pleased to serve as Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Animal Welfare in both the 2015 and 2017 parliaments. As Groups such as this one are in the process of being reconstituted following the General Election in December, I look forward to playing my part in this APPG’s work in the months and years ahead.

Henry Smith MP
Crawley Constituency

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