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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.

Opinion

A Game of Politics – as the end of the pop-up cycle lanes approaches why isn’t everyone happy?

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Yesterday we exclusively revealed that a change was afoot over the removal of the controversial pop-up cycle lanes in Crawley.

Sources revealed to CN24 how a decision to remove the pop-up cycle lanes was about to be made, but it appears this upcoming decision has caused more political tangling than you might expect.

Instead of the towns political figures banding together to support the removal of what, arguably the majority of residents have wanted to be removed, a game is now afoot over who has done the ‘real’work to make this happen.

The political games of pre-covid have returned with a vengeance and communication, published on social media, between County Council representatives and local councilors has done nothing to appease this.

A tweet published this morning, (3rd Nov) by County Councilor and Crawley Borough Councilor Michael Jones, shows the extent of the discontent based ‘entirely’ due to a response made by the Crawley MP’s office over the pop-up cycle lanes.

The irony, of course, is the extent to how ‘sad’ political games have to be brought in over something the majority of people never wanted.

But don’t expect that to stop points scoring even at dire times like an upcoming lockdown.

When the cycle lanes appeared there was major discontent, with a petition launched, a mass emailing saga erupting to the county council and most of the local leaders – all with one objective – to have the lanes removed.

Now, with a light at the end of a very leaf strewn autumnal tunnel, instead of the political community coming together to admit, quite literally, that the pop-up cycle lanes were – and let’s not beat about the bushes here – a total disaster and we should all be celebrating at their pending removal – it appears everyone wants to take credit for something that is about to happen, or use the blame culture for credit that in-fact no-one knows has had any effect whatsoever.

What’s more, where credit has not been suggested or implied, everyone is angered rather than celebrating. When I say everyone, I of course refer to those with a political point scoring agenda.

Whoever and whatever has happened to help make the change should actually be irrelevant but, let’s be honest, when did that ever matter when there is an opportunity for a quick tweet to score a point?

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