THE FUTURE of the dynamic smart motorway system used on the M62 is in doubt after the Transport Secretary announced a review in Parliament.

Grant Shapps told MPs "we know people are dying" on smart motorways but added greater detail is required on how safe they are compared to full motorways.

Recommendations from the review of driver safety on smart motorways are expected within weeks

Mr Shapps insisted he wants to ensure all motorways in the country are "as safe as they possibly can be".

His confirmation of the review comes after Highways England chief executive Jim O'Sullivan told the Transport Select Committee that smart motorways with a hard shoulder only used at busy times are "too complicated for people to use".

He said it will not build any more "dynamic" smart motorways like the one on the M62 near the Chain Bar junction because too many motorists do not understand them.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Shapps told MPs: "The House I know is very concerned about smart motorways.

"I've heard those concerns raised today and previously and I have asked my department to carry out at pace an evidence stocktake to gather the facts quickly and make recommendations."

Lilian Greenwood, Labour chairwoman of the committee, asked if the review would be carried out by the Department for Transport or an independent person.

Mr Shapps replied: "I will ensure that it's the department that is making decisions on this because I think some of the statistics have been difficult to understand, and we know people are dying on smart motorways.

"Of course, we know 70 or 80 people die a year on full motorways.

"Understanding whether they are less safe, the same or safer - it turns out not to be as straightforward as members might imagine - I want all of those facts and recommendations that can be put into place to ensure that all of our motorways are as safe as they possibly can be.

"I will get this done in a matter of weeks."

AA president Edmund King expressed his delight that smart motorways will be reviewed and called for more emergency refuge areas to be installed on the roads.

"We have been raising concerns for more than six years about the dangers to the 38% who break down in a live lane on smart motorways," he said.

"We know there are real situations where lives would have been saved if drivers on smart motorways had somewhere safe to stop. We owe it to all drivers to give them a safe harbour to stop if their vehicle develops problems."

A spokesman for West Yorkshire-based safety charity Brake said: “The safety of all road users must be the priority when it comes to operating our road network.

"We welcome the Transport Secretary’s announcement of a review into the safety of smart motorways, given the recent deaths on them which have understandably caused a great deal of alarm. Improving capacity must always be secondary to keeping road users safe.”

Mr O’Sullivan said drivers are confused about when they can use the hard shoulder and when it is closed to non-emergency traffic.

He said there is confusion over when the hard shoulder is and is not open to traffic.

“We get people who stop there when it’s a running lane,” he told the committee.

“What we also find is because people aren’t sure if it’s a hard shoulder or a running lane, even when it is open, the usage of that running lane is much lower because people aren’t sure whether it’s a hard shoulder or not.”

He added: “I don’t think we will be building any more dynamic hard shoulder smart motorways. They’re just too complicated for people to use.”

Other types of smart motorways include all lane running schemes where lane one - formerly the hard shoulder - is only closed in the event of an accident, and controlled motorways which have variable speed limits but retain the hard shoulder for emergencies.

Smart motorways have been developed as a way of increasing capacity and reducing congestion without the more costly process of widening roads.