Published: 13:12, 21 April 2020
| Updated: 07:49, 22 April 2020
An MP has expressed her dismay as "potentially lifesaving" equipment may not be operational on a stretch of smart motorway near Maidstone for three years.
Work on transforming a 6.5mile stretch of the M20 between junction 3 at West Malling and junction 5 at Aylesford into a smart motorway was completed earlier this month, with all four lanes open but a 50mph speed limit imposed, most likely until the end of April.
However, it could take up to 36 months for stopped vehicle detection units, which register when a vehicle has halted, to be rolled out to smart motorways across the country.
MP for Chatham and Aylesford, Tracey Crouch, a fierce campaigner for increased safety measures on the M20, was told the news by a minister in the Department for Transport.
Miss Crouch said: “I am extremely disappointed that potentially lifesaving stopped vehicle detection units may still be three years away from installation on the new stretch of smart M20 motorway.
"Concerns about safety were raised before this project was finalised and could have been installed during the works, rather than retrofitted at a point as yet undetermined and vulnerable to post pandemic austerity measures.
"The motorway might not be running at full capacity due to lockdown restrictions but when things return to relative normality it will be the first time that the smart motorway will be used and I fear for the worst without the proper safety measures in place."
Last month, the government announced an 18-point plan to tackle the safety of smart motorways, which included speeding up detection technology for stopped vehicles.
Concerns about accidents and safety were raised after figures showed there had been 38 deaths on smart motorways in five years.
In 2017 Steven Godbold was hit and killed by a lorry on the M25 near Sevenoaks in 2017.
Smart motorways use technology to sense traffic flow and set speed limits accordingly.
The design for the M20 involved converting most of the hard shoulder permanently to a traffic lane to create extra capacity.
A Highways England spokesperson said: "Stopped vehicle detection technology on the M20 smart motorway upgrade will be installed as soon as possible, and certainly within 36 months.
"We have already added extra lanes on the M20 between junctions 3 and 5 and the motorway will have all the safety benefits of current smart motorways. We are committed to delivering road upgrades safely, and the M20 smart motorway upgrade is no exception."