National highways miss 10-minute target for smart highway outages

National Highways is missing its 10-minute target to respond to drivers who break down on smart highways, nearly a year after it took effect.

June statistics, revealed by National Highways chief executive Nick Harris to the Commons Transport Committee on Wednesday, show traffic officers missed the target by 18 seconds on average, and the figure has dropped by six seconds since march.

The safety of smart highways, where hard shoulders are used as traffic lanes, has long been feared, after fatal incidents in which vehicles stopped in traffic lanes were struck from behind.

Mr Harris insisted the national highways were making ‘good progress’ although they had not met their target every month since their introduction in July last year.

It comes days after the Office of Rail and Road urged the company to ‘focus on reducing its response times’ to help stranded drivers.

Mr Harris told MPs: “We’re now at 10.3 minutes for June, so that’s a decrease from May which was 10.45.

“If I go back to March, we got down to 10.2, which is a great achievement…and it compares very favorably to the police whose response is around 15 minutes.

“I am convinced that we are focused on reaching 10 minutes this year.”

He blamed “operational reasons” for the increased response times since March, as national highways had to “move things” to the southeast.

Sitting next to Mr Harris, Transport Minister Baroness Vere admitted it would be a “challenge” to convince the public to trust smart motorways.

“You’re significantly less safe on a country B road than you are on just about any other road and yet people somehow feel safer,” she said.

“Whether research shows people are more confident on our most dangerous roads is a challenge.”

An RAC poll of 2,652 UK drivers suggested that 62% think hard shoulders should be reintroduced to the motorway network.