Is the M5 the UK’s most dangerous motorway?

Two women were killed when a lorry traveling northbound on the M5 smashed through the steel barrier on the central reserve and hit their Mercedes car traveling in the opposite direction.

The incident happened near Frankley, in the west Midlands, between junctions 3 and 4 at around 11.40am on the 13th May 2011. The motorway was closed in both directions for over seven hours causing massive rush-hour tailbacks.

The M5 motorway continues to raise serious questions about motorway safety. So much so that we ask the question, is the M5 the most dangerous motorway in the UK?

In the last six months alone there have been 3 crossover incidents on the M5 where vehicles have careered through the steel barrier on the central reserve and ended up head on to traffic on the opposite carriageway.

* Crossover incident one: 12th December 2010     Junctions 8 – 9   

Coach hits lorry on northbound carriageway, crashes through steel central barrier and hits Ford Fiesta on the other carriageway. Motorway closed for 16 hours. One fatality and many injured.

* Crossover incident two: 14th December 2010     Junctions 2 – 3

Lorry traveling northbound crashes through central barrier ripping out over 650 feet of steel  and knocking down three lamp-posts. Incredibly no one was hurt in this accident.

* Crossover incident three: 13th May 2011      Junctions 3 – 4      

Lorry careers across six lanes of traffic, smashes through steel barrier and hits Mercedes traveling on the southbound carriageway. Driver and passenger both killed.

Why do we accept these accidents, the subsequent delays and this horrendous loss of life as if it were quite normal?

It is a bizarre mentality. This would never be allowed to happen on our rail network or in the aviation industry – so why is it happening on our motorways and why is nothing being done to protect UK motorists traveling on our major road network. Remember, the victims in all of these tragic accidents were completely innocent and had committed no driving offence whatsoever. They were merely driving along minding their own business when, on each and every occasion, a vehicle smashed through the so-called safety barrier and hit them head on. The victims had absolutely no chance of avoiding these collisions.

It is absolutely clear to us that the steel safety barrier on these motorways is not doing the job it is designed to do.

The government has said steel barrier on UK motorways would be replaced with concrete safety barrier when it has reached its life expectancy. Surely the family of those killed in these recent accidents deserve an explanation and the state of the steel barrier on our entire motorway network must now be called into question.

We have been told that much of the steel barrier on the M5 has never been properly tested and does not satisfy EU safety standards. If this is true, the steel barrier (known as Series-31 in the trade) is partly responsible for this tragic and unnecessary loss of life. Much of the barrier on the M5 and around Spaghetti Junction in the West Midlands is Series 31. It must be replaced immediately to prevent further loss of life.

Who at the Department of Transport is signing this steel barrier off each year as fit for purpose?

Elsewhere on the M5, drivers will be alarmed at what appears to be badly corroded steel barrier around junction 22. The shocking picture below was taken late last year and sent to MPs for their comments. Liam Fox took up the story and asked the Department for Transport for their comments.

Mike Fenning of the DfT replied to say that this steel barrier is visually inspected every 24 hours as well as weekly. He also tells us that the barrier is physically checked every two years. Clearly something is wrong here.

Does this steel barrier on the M5 look as if it is fit for purpose to you? Do you think this will protect you if a lorry hits it coming in the opposite direction?

It is time for MPs to start asking serious questions about the state of the UK motorway network, particularly on the M5 and why the UK motorist only has rusty or untested steel between them and a ten-ton lorry coming in the opposite direction.

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