Plans to build 80 miles of ‘smart motorway’ in the north west of England have been met with opposition from road safety campaigners.

The plans are part of a £1.5 billion investment programme over the next five years by Highways England and will involve installing technology to monitor traffic levels, opening up the hard shoulder to drivers during busy periods and the use of variable speed limits to ease congestion.

Highways England said that the plans will make roads safer, improve journey times and cut congestion, but road safety groups have expressed opposition to the plans arguing that ‘smart motorways’ could make roads unsafe.

Road campaigner, Sian Berry said: "We know from Highways England's own assessments that the risk of some types of crashes is increased three times by getting rid of the hard shoulder.”

Simon Wilson, a senior serious injury solicitor based in Thompsons Solicitors’ Leeds office, said: “The plans outlined by Highways England concede that there is an increased risk of collisions by allowing drivers to use the hard shoulder and yet they go ahead and recommend this.

“Drivers and passengers using the hard shoulder in the event of an emergency or breakdown are already in a vulnerable position. Opening up the hard shoulder to fast-moving traffic is potentially incredibly dangerous and could expose people to a greater risk of being hit, seriously injured or even killed in a road traffic collision.

“Rather than invest properly in the road system and improve rail travel, the government is doing neither and in its look for a quick fix shows the contempt they have for safety whether that is in the workplace or on the roads. If cutting journey times to the detriment of people’s safety is the answer, the government is asking the wrong question.”