Safety fears have been raised over proposals to remove street lighting from sections of Scotland’s busiest motorways.
Stretches of the M8, M73 and M74 would be left unlit to save money as part of the current £500 million upgrade.
There are also worries that construction may not be completed until 2018, forcing motorists to endure up to an extra year of major roadworks.
The work, which started in 2014, involves building the final section of the M8 between Edinburgh and Glasgow, plus extra lanes and improved junctions on the M73 and M74, which form part of Scotland’s main north-south road link.
The Scotsman has been told that contractors have proposed removing lighting from some sections to save money and cut carbon emissions.
Industry sources said that could create some of the only unlit four-lane stretches of motorway in Britain.
Motherwell and Wishaw Labour MSP John Pentland said the move could make the roads more dangerous – decades after lighting was installed to improve safety.
He said: “My understanding is that street lighting will be removed from the main carriageways of the M8, M73 and the M74.
“This is worrying because much of the existing lighting was put in place over 20 years ago to reduce the number of serious accidents, and with the extra lanes and big increase in traffic since then, it’s difficult to see how reducing the lighting can be justified.
“The increase in peripheral light sources from developments alongside the motorways adds to the problem.”
Mr Pentland called instead for lighting to be enhanced.
He said: “I believe they should look to increase lighting using energy-efficient modern technology such as LEDs, as well as options such as illuminated road studs that have been used elsewhere.”
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents Scotland urged caution. Road safety manager Sandy Allan said: “A decision to turn off or reduce the number of lit areas should only be undertaken on a trial basis in the first instance, and where there is very strong confidence this will not contribute to collisions. A recent survey suggested there were almost twice as many fatal accidents on sections of motorway with no lighting when compared to those with [lighting].”
Neil Greig, of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: “Rather than removing all lights permanently, the project should start with a trial of switching off in the early hours of the morning to ensure no negative effects.”
Mr Pentland is also concerned the project could be finished late. He said: “It has been suggested to me by people with some knowledge of such matters that the work that remains to be done on this contract is probably more than could be accomplished within the next year. The Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency said lighting was still being planned by its contractors, but insisted the project was on time.”
Its spokeswoman said: “Scottish Roads Partnership is required to design street lighting which complies with national standards to ensure the safe operation of the new roads. SRP is currently in the process of designing the permanent street lighting layouts. Transport Scotland confirms the project is on track to be completed in spring 2017.”