Families of those killed on M1 launch legal action over smart motorways
Written by Rother Radio News on 18/11/2020
Grieving relatives whose loved ones were killed on the same section of smart motorway in South Yorkshire are joining forces as they step up their campaign for them to be scrapped.
Jason Mercer, 47, and Nargis Begum, 62, died in separate crashes on a stretch of the M1 near Sheffield in 2018 and 2019.
Their families have teamed up with lawyers Irwin Mitchell to lobby Highways England for change.
Both are pursuing legal action against the government owned company that has implemented smart motorways across the country.
In Yorkshire large sections of the M1 and M62 are now without any hard shoulder having been converted into ‘all lane’ roads controlled by overhead gantries.
Jason and 22-year-old Alexandru Murgreanu, from Mansfield, were killed when they were knocked down by a lorry shortly after they were involved in a minor collision near junction 34 of the M1 near Meadowhall.
The pair had pulled over to the roadside as far as they could, however, it is claimed that the lane was not closed to traffic until after the collision which happened on 7 June, 2019.
Following Jason’s death, his widow Claire, of Broom, Rotherham, instructed Irwin Mitchell to investigate bringing a judicial review against Highways England calling for the use of smart motorways to be halted.
Nargis, a mum-of-five and grandmother-of-nine, died in September 2018, after the Nissan Qashqai she was a passenger in broke down near Woodall services.
Nargis and her husband Mohammed Bashir, 67, who had been driving, exited their vehicle and were waiting for help to arrive when another vehicle then collided with their vehicle causing the Nissan to plough into Nargis.
The stranded Nissan had its hazard lights on for 17 minutes when the other vehicle collided with it. It is alleged that the lane had not been closed to traffic.
Minutes before the collision the couple had phoned their daughter Saima Aktar who arrived at the scene to find paramedics trying to save her mum.
Jason and Nargis were among four people to die in collisions on the M1 around Sheffield in 10 months.
The stretch of motorway is an ‘all lanes running’ (ALR) motorway which instead of a hard shoulder has emergency refuges spaced at intervals.
Nargis’s family, of Darnall, Sheffield, have now launched a separate legal case against Highways England in connection with her death.
As part of the ‘Smart Motorways Kill’ movement, the families want to hear from others who have either been injured or had relatives die on the stretches of road where the traditional hard shoulder has been replaced.
Helen Smith, public law and human rights lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, representing Claire, said: “Claire and Nargis’s family are steadfast in their belief that smart motorways cost lives.
“As part of our investigations into Claire’s case we’re continuing to uncover more information about smart motorways which backs up that view.
“A recent survey also found more than half of drivers questioned didn’t know to use a smart motorway which just adds to the groundswell of opinion that there needs to be change.”
Saima said: “My Mum was the most loving and caring mum you could ever wish for. She lived for her family and was our rock.
“It may be more than two years since her death but the pain we continue to feel is as strong now as it was then. My Dad in particular is absolutely devastated. That he avoided injury but his wife of 45 years didn’t has had such an impact on him.
“We still don’t understand why action is not being taken to sort the problem of these motorways. They may be called smart but they’re anything but.”
Claire added: “It’s too late for me and Nargis’s family and nothing will ever replace the hurt and anger we feel. However, we do take some small comfort from trying to help and support each other.
“We’re determined to honour the memory of Jason and Nargis by pushing for change. We know only too well the dangers of smart motorways and no doubt others do. However, they don’t have to be alone and we can campaign for change together.”
Claire has launched a crowdfunding campaign to try and raise £20,000 to help challenge the government’s policy on Smart Motorways.
Last March, the Department for Transport told YorkshireLive that ‘dynamic hard shoulders’ – lanes that alternate between a live lane and a hard shoulder – were to be scrapped.
It said dynamic lanes on a 15 mile stretch of the M62 would be made into permanent live lanes and said it would be investigating “the clusters of incidents on the M1 at Sheffield and Wakefield.”
But it has stopped short of scrapping smart motorways and the permanent use of all lanes continues with a scheme to complete the smart motorway between Manchester and Huddersfield currently underway.
On these schemes emergency refuges are constructed for broken down vehicles.
But there has been concern that they are not frequent enough, with gaps over two miles on some motorways.