Owner of horse killed on smart motorway wants hard shoulder reinstated

The owners of a horse killed after the lorry it was in broke down on a smart motorway have called for the hard shoulder to be reinstated. Andrew Jackson was transporting his daughter’s showjumper, Disney, on the M6 when the lorry suffered engine failure and came to a halt on the inside live lane. Mr Jackson, 58, from near Penrith in Cumbria, could not reach an emergency refuge area on the motorway near Cheshire where the hard shoulder was turned into a fourth lane.

Within seconds of calling National Highways, formerly Highways England, to get the southbound lane closed, the horsebox, which had hazards flashing, was hit at 56mph by a lorry, propelling it 50 meters down the carriageway. It took five hours for the 15-year-old horse to be extracted from the wreckage before it was taken to an equine hospital where it was put down. Mr Jackson and his daughter, April, 20, said the tragedy illustrated how scrapping hard shoulders robs motorists of a vital safety refuge.

“I suddenly started to lose power,” Mr Jackson said. “I could see the emergency refuge area ahead, but I just couldn’t get there. I pulled in as close as I could before dashing to the roadside emergency telephone to raise the alarm. It was 10.45am.

“I was told not to go back but to await help. That was when the 44-tonne truck hit.” Police, armed with guns to shoot the horse in case it strayed onto the motorway, arrived along with firefighters, a vet and National Highways officers.

Broken legs

Mr Jackson, a retired bank manager, added: “The vet said the horse was badly injured.

Its legs were cut to ribbons. We learned later it also had broken legs. “There was blood coming out of the crushed wagon.

Thankfully, she was quickly sedated. It took until 4pm to get her out.” Ms Jackson, a student in equine sciences at Hartpury University, Gloucestershire, arrived in a separate car 20 minutes after the crash.

April and her horse, DisneyCredit: News Scan

“I was in shock.

I wanted to help but was helpless,” said Ms Jackson, who has competed in showjumping events with Disney, her “best friend”. “At the hospital the vets brought her round and tried to get her to stand back up. But, she was very fatigued and we were finding more injuries.

We could do more for her, but decided it wouldn’t be in her best interests. It was heartbreaking.” The horse, which was being taken to stay with Ms Jackson in Gloucestershire, was put down at 7pm.

632 incidents last year

The Telegraph can reveal there were 632 incidents last year in which horseboxes were involved in breakdowns on England’s motorway network.

Of those, 111 involved the animals being stranded on live lanes. On 446 occasions the driver was on a traditional motorway and was able to pull onto the hard shoulder.

The damaged horseboxCredit: News Scans

The Highway Code states that “animals must be kept in the vehicle or, in an emergency, under control on the verge”.  Mr Jackson was told if he had been in his vehicle he would probably not have survived the crash.

The other lorry driver was not arrested or charged over the incident in April. “The Highways England officer told me live lane breakdowns are happening every day. Our crash happened in a matter of minutes and seconds.

People will continue to be killed on smart motorways.”

‘Some of the safest stretches of road in the country’

Duncan Smith, the acting executive director for operations, National Highways, said: “We very much recognise the distress caused by incidents like this. Such incidents are rare and smart motorways in particular are some of the safest stretches of road in the country. “We’re constantly working to make sure road users feel safe when travelling on them, with technology to spot stopped vehicles being rolled out along new and existing all lane running motorways.

The Highway Code has also been updated to provide guidance on where to stop in an emergency and on the importance of not driving in a lane closed by a Red X.” Roly Owers, the chief executive of World Horse Welfare, said “Transporting horses in a trailer or lorry is always challenging and potentially dangerous, and this will be made much worse if you end up stranded at the side of the road.” “Horses are large, strong and unpredictable, so unless advised by the police or agencies, they must be left on the vehicle.

Regardless of whether you are stationary on a road with or without a hard shoulder, as we have sadly seen no matter how well-prepared you are and how much is done to minimise that risk, your vehicle and horses will still be at risk from other road users.”