Speed and HGVs highlighted in A697 report

The A697 south of the Bridge Of Aln.
The A697 south of the Bridge Of Aln.

A report looking at improving safety on the A697 has found that excess speed plays a key role, while signs and road markings could be improved.

Northumberland County Council commissioned a report from Aecom following concerns that the route from just north of Morpeth to the Scottish border is one of the most dangerous roads in the county.

Money has been allocated in the Local Transport Plan 2014/15 to fund some of the improvements and features recommended.

A draft report has recently been completed and at Monday night’s meeting of the north area committee, engineer Paul McKenna explained the key findings.

He said that 42 per cent of collisions involved driver errors, adding that signage is poor along the route and road markings need refreshing.

HGVs also play a role as they are involved in27 per cent of crashes, but only make up 5.2 per cent of typical traffic volume nationally.

However, the research did also show that since 2011 there was a downward trend in terms of the number of collisions, from fatal to slight, although three recent crashes had not been included in the figures. It had decreased from a total of 28 in 2011/12 to 19 in 2013/14.

The report divided the road into a number of short sections and found that the following of most concern, in order from the worst: Longframlington to Longhorsley; Fenrother to the A1; Coeburn to Knogley; Bowchester to Coldgate Heugh; Hedgeley to Shawdon Hall.

Coun Anthony Murray, whose Wooler ward includes a section of the road, said: “I’m certainly heartened to hear that we are trying to do something about the A697. The A697 has got worse and worse and worse as the A1 has got more and more congested.”

Coun Glen Sanderson, who has been fighting for improvements on the A697, said: “There is no question that there has been an increase in traffic on the A697 because of the poor quality of the A1 as a transport route. There is more traffic using the A697, which is increasing chances of accidents occurring.

“It is not a road which is designed for the quantity of traffic and the different types of traffic that are currently using it.

“While I am incredibly grateful that work will be done on the A1, urgent work also needs to be done on the A697.

“People living in villages along the A697, who have seen increased traffic, noise and speeding that often occurs, as well as those who have lost loved ones, have suffered unnecessarily.

“The A697 is a very important road for us and I am pleased that Northumberland County Council has commissioned a safety report which shows we need to spend serious money on it to address the problems.”