WORCESTER'S MP has supported the government's decision to "pause" the rollout of new smart motorway schemes amid safety concerns - but has defended the roads.

The Department for Transport said on Wednesday (January 12) it will halt the expansion of the motorways where the hard shoulder is used as a permanent live traffic lane until five years' worth of data has been collected to assess whether or not they are safe for drivers.

The decision follows a recommendation by the Commons Transport Select Committee which said there was not enough safety and economic data to justify continuing with the project. Campaigners had argued the smart motorways were not safe after high-profile crashes.

Robin Walker insisted the data shows otherwise.

He said: "The figures suggest otherwise, they show accidents have in fact reduced on our motorways, but the point is you want to me them as safe as possible.

"We've listened to some of the concerns of motoring groups and what the select committee have recommended, and it seems a sensible approach to keep looking at the evidence and continually making our motorways safer.

"I do think though there is a point about hard shoulders everywhere not being particularly safe either, and there have been a number of concerns recently about accidents which have happened on the hard shoulder.

"So it's about taking an evidence based approach to making things safer.

"There are people who are calling for smart motorways to be abolished completely, but the risk there is if you reduce the capacity on motorways you're forcing more traffic onto A roads where statistically more accidents occur."

Up to 400 miles of so-called smart motorway was due to be delivered by 2025 after Highways England Revealed the plans in 2019.

However, projects started before 2020 have now been temporarily shelved.

In a report on November 2, the committee described the Government's decision in March 2020 that all future smart motorways would be all-lane-running versions as "premature".

Concerns have been raised following fatal incidents involving broken-down vehicles being hit from behind due to a lack of a hard shoulder.

Although available data shows smart motorways are comparatively the safest roads in the country in terms of fatality rates, while their rollout is paused, the Government has said it will 'go further' by ensuring current smart motorways without a permanent hard shoulder are equipped with best-in-class technology and resources to make them as safe as possible.

The Department for Transport has committed £900 million to do that, including pledging £390 million to install more than 150 additional 'emergency areas' so drivers have more places to stop if they get into difficulty.

This will represent around a 50 per cent increase in places to stop by 2025.