‘This road has already taken too many lives’

The scene of Friday's two-vehicle crash on the A697.
The scene of Friday's two-vehicle crash on the A697.

A new study will explore ways of improving the safety record on a death-trap road which has claimed another life.

The A697, branded dangerous by campaigners, was thrust into the spotlight yet again on Friday after a 62-year-old woman was killed in a two-vehicle crash.

The scene of Friday's two-vehicle crash on the A697.

The scene of Friday's two-vehicle crash on the A697.

Muriel Bartle, from Seaton Sluice, was pronounced dead at the scene, after her car, which was heading north, collided with another vehicle travelling in the opposite direction, just south of Wooler.

The other driver, a 25-year-old woman, suffered a broken leg and was taken to Wansbeck General Hospital. She has since been released.

It is the latest in a tragic sequence of fatalities along the A697 in recent years, sparking calls for action.

Now, Northumberland County Council has commissioned outside consultants to examine the road, highlighting accident blackspots and providing advice on safety measures.

It is hoped that the report will be ready before Christmas and any proposals fed into next year’s budget.

Coun Glen Sanderson, who has long called for improved safety along the A697, said: “I am very sorry that this road has taken another life, while the other driver was badly injured.

“Everyone deplores the fact that we have a very dangerous road going through the centre of Northumberland. In fact, figures show that it is one of the most dangerous A-class roads in the country and it has already taken too many lives.”

He added: “That is why these outside consultants have been asked to come in and write an action plan.

“It will allow them to look at the accidents which have occurred, plot where the dangerous areas are and recommended to the council about introducing safety features.

“Hopefully some of the suggestions will feed into the Local Transport Plan for 2015/16 so we can see some meaningful action and alleviate as much danger as we can.”

He believes that mobile speed cameras need to be utilised more along the road and has suggested reducing the speed limit along certain parts of the A697.

Friday’s crash happened at 9.46am on a winding section of the road, just south of Haugh Head. The stretch was closed for most of the day, before being reopened just before 6pm. One tribute left at the scene read: ‘Missing you already, our darling friend Mu. Will remember our happy times forever’.

Coun Anthony Murray, ward member for Wooler, is among those calling for action along the A697 and said the crash occurred at a particularly bad place.

He said: “There are a number of parts on the A697 which are dangerous, and a lot of work is needed to improve it, but the section of road where Friday’s accident happened is not good, especially at this time of year when the sun is low in the sky. Visibility isn’t very good.”

He said that flashing speed signs have been installed on some parts of the A697 which pass through villages, and added that efforts are ongoing to put one at Wooler.

He also believes that the inadequacies of the A1, with its single-carriageway sections, is having an impact on the A697.

He said: “I would like to see the A1 upgraded, because I think that would reduce the pressure on the A697.

“More and more traffic, especially heavy traffic, is using the A697 because the A1 is snarled up.”

Police are trying to establish the cause of the collision. Anyone with details should call 101 ext 69191 quoting reference 305 171014 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.