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MPs call for smart motorways to be suspended amid safety concerns

Between 2014 and 2019, 38 people were killed on smart motorways

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Pixabay & Department for Transport / Flickr

MPs have urged for the introduction of ‘all lane’ smart motorways to be delayed until their safety can be ensured.

While the government has maintained that smart motorways are just as safe as conventional ones, concerns arose after a report by the Commons’ Transport Select Committee (TSC) said there is not enough safety and economic data to justify continuing with the scheme, which sees the hard shoulder be used as a permanent live traffic lane to increase capacity. 

The report described the Government’s decision in March 2020 to make all future smart motorways all-lane-running versions as ‘premature’, while also stressing that the evidence available is ‘limited and volatile’.

Department for Transport / Flickr

Concerns were also raised following a number of fatal accidents involving broken-down vehicles being hit from behind – according to government figures obtained by BBC Panorama in 2020, thirty-eight people were killed on smart motorways between 2014 and 2019.

Controlled smart motorways – which only use the hard shoulder as a live traffic lane during peak periods – have the ‘lowest casualty rates’ of all roads across motorways and major A roads in England, the report also noted.

Tory MP Huw Merriman, who chairs the committee, said: “Looking at the available evidence, smart motorways do appear to be safer than conventional motorways even once the hard shoulder is removed.

“However, this evidence is also open to question. Only twenty-nine miles of these all-lane running smart motorways have operated for over five years. 

Number 10 / Flickr

“It therefore feels too soon, and uncertain, to use this as an evidence base to remove the hard shoulder from swathes of our motorway network.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson added: “We’re pleased that the committee recognises that reinstating the hard shoulder on all all-lane running motorways could put more drivers and passengers at risk of death and serious injury and that we’re right to focus on upgrading their safety, as the secretary of state committed to doing when he became transport secretary.”

Smart Motorways were first introduced back in 2014 as a cheaper method of increasing capacity compared to widening carriageways. Today, there are 375 miles of smart motorway across the country, including 235 miles without a hard shoulder. 

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Primary school in Greater Manchester evacuated after nearby ‘gas explosion’

BREAKING:

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Tamoor Tariq / Facebook

A primary school in Greater Manchester has been evacuated after a ‘gas explosion’ at a nearby house.

The incident happened earlier today (February 28th) near to St Luke’s primary school in Bury.

Councillor Tamoor Tariq said everyone who lived nearby has also been taken to a place of safety after the blast, which happened in the Fishpool area.

At around 12pm, he posted on Facebook: “Heartbreaking to share there has been a gas explosion in the last few minutes right across from my house.

Tamoor Tariq / Facebook

“I understand everyone has been taken into a place of safety and emergency services are doing all possible to deal with this awful situation.

“St Luke’s primary have also evacuated children, as they are just yards away. I remain out of the country due to a family member being critical, but I am keeping in touch with all relevant people/authorities.”

In a further comment, Mr Tamoor added: “An elderly neighbour has been taken into hospital, all others affected are in a safe and secure place of their choosing. Praying our neighbour will be ok and get the treatment she needs.”

Tamoor Tariq / Facebook

A Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said ‘multiple crews’ had been dispatched to the scene.

They added: “Residents in the area are advised to keep windows and doors closed and avoid the scene while crews carry out their work.”

A woman in her 70s has been taken to hospital with ‘serious injuries’, Greater Manchester Police said.

Tamoor Tariq / Facebook

Issuing a statement on social media, GMP said: “Emergency services are currently responding to a report of an explosion at a property on Nelson Street in the Fishpool area of Bury.

“At this stage, a woman in her 70s has been taken to hospital with serious injuries. A 200 metre cordon is in place around the property and neighbouring homes.

“Local residents and the community will be made aware if they need to take any further action.”

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Iceland announces it’s discounting baby formula to cut price of £7.95

Iceland CEO Richard Walker says says ‘businesses need to step up and do more’

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Edward Hands / Wikimedia & Iceland

Iceland has launched reduced cost baby formula in a bid to do more to help families through the cost of living crisis.

Iceland CEO Richard Walker is determined to bring down the cost of baby formula, and says ‘businesses need to step up and do more’.

The businessman has made it his mission after hearing heartbreaking tales from parents who have been struggling to feed their families amid spiralling costs.

Edward Hands / Wikimedia

Mr Walker, a dad-of-two, told Metro: “We’ve heard terrible stories of customers watering down feeds, skipping feeds or ignoring sell by dates, all of which is really bad for the baby. That prompted us to take action.”

Iceland slashed prices earlier this year, revealing three of its Aptamil formula milk products would sell at £11.20 – a move which led other supermarkets including Asda and Tesco to reduce their own prices. 

Now, Iceland has confirmed it is selling 800g of SMA’s Little Steps formula milk for £7.95 across its stores and online from Tuesday February 27th – £1.80 cheaper than its rivals.

Ben Kerckx / Wikimedia

Mr Walker insisted it’s not just a clever business move either, as he continued: “The price is a mind-blowing £7.95 which makes it the cheapest infant formula milk on the market. I think it will really really help our customers.

“We’re not making any profit out of this now. We’re passing on the savings which we’re managing to persuade the manufacturer to give straight on to our customers.”

The baby formula industry is currently under investigation after prices rose by an average of 25% in the past two years.

Donald_Trung / Wikimedia

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has said it is looking into whether companies have been exploiting parents for profit.

Iceland’s launch of lower priced baby formula has also gained the support of Mumsnet.

The eight-million strong parenting group have announced they are joining forces with Formula For Change – Metro’s campaign to lower baby formula prices.

Mr Walker has also signed the petition and is calling on parents to sign it and help push it over the line.

Politicians may soon be forced to address the scandal as the Formula for Change petition is almost at the 100,000 signatures mark – the crucial threshold needed for a parliamentary debate on the issue.

Mr Walker also told the publication: “Formula for Change is absolutely fantastic. The Prime Minister has said he is ‘sad’ families are watering down formula to try and make it last longer, but again these are just words.”

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Manchester’s derelict arches set to be transformed into food, drink and retail destination

The plans will transform the empty site into a trendy new hangout for tenants and working professionals

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Google Maps & The Arch Company

Several derelict railway arches in a forgotten corner of Manchester are set to become a new food, drink, leisure and retail destination.

The council have granted planning permission to revamp the 10 arches, located on Corporation Street in Red Bank, with the project to be undertaken by The Arch Company – which has also secured permission from Salford Council to transform a further 10 arches, located on Norton Street in the Green Quarter.

The vision is to turn the area, near Angel Meadow, into a street of arches that appeal to potential residents looking to move to a trendy area, with plenty to do, in the city.

Pick Everard

The company has pitched the development as a plan to transform the arches into a new destination ‘for food and drink, leisure and retail businesses to occupy’, while respecting and maintaining the city’s industrial history.

Santosh Patel, from Pick Everard – the construction consultants brought into the project – said: “Manchester is famously proud of its industrial heritage, and this project not only maintains and celebrates that history, but rejuvenates it in an exciting and innovative way to bring added social value to the city’s modern landscape and its residents.

“Seeing this project to completion will bring a new offering to Manchester, further regenerating its town centre in a way that makes sense within its larger community.”

Google Maps

The new spaces present a great opportunity for independent retail, restaurant, and other leisure businesses to develop in an area that will grow and thrive with them,” he added.

However, breathing new life into deteriorating Victorian railway arches will not be without its challenges as Alan Soper, studio director at SGP, highlighted that one issue on Corporation Street was ‘substantial level differences from the front to the rear of many of the units’.

He added that ‘clever design’ was needed for requirements like fire escapes — because the arches back on to the River Irk, so an exit route can only go through the front. 

Mr Soper said: “By any standards, arches are not a ‘normal’ building type and each can differ considerably in height, depth and shape, realising the potential of these previously overlooked spaces takes experience and good technical know-how if we are to refurbish them to modern occupancy standards.”

Google Maps

“Our previous experience with old, historic or listed properties, and the ability to work within the existing building fabric, has proved invaluable in realising some of these schemes, as, too, has our technical knowledge of building regulations, particularly in relation to ventilation and fire security,” he added.

Both the Manchester and Salford arches developments form part of Project 1000, The Arch Company’s £200m plan to bring 1,000 empty or derelict spaces into use across England and Wales by 2030.

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