Call for action on the A697 steps up a gear

A call for action on the A697, following three serious accidents in nine days, is being taken ‘exceptionally seriously’, with moves to make the road safer stepping up a gear.

Two men were killed in separate crashes at the end of June while multiple vehicles were involved in a smash at the beginning of this month.

All three happened on the stretch from Heighley Gate to Longhorsley.

It prompted Coun Glen Sanderson to make a request for the road – especially that particular section – to come under urgent scrutiny, and on Thursday he discussed the issue with Northumberland County Council’s highways and road safety teams.

And following a ‘very useful’ meeting, he told the Gazette:

○ speed monitoring is set to take place in three locations – at Espley, near to Fenrother and on the approach to Weldon Bridge – over the course of the summer holidays and in the autumn

○ up-to-date data will be provided about the accidents per vehicle mile to see if that stretch is worse than other parts of the road, as well as information about the frequency and type of vehicles using the A697

○ possibilities of having mobile speed cameras and greater police presence is to be discussed

○ if speed is an issue, there could be talks about potential safety schemes, such as reduced speed limits.

Coun Sanderson, ward member for Chevington with Longhorsley, said: “The situation is very grave on that road and that particular stretch of road.

“I am pleased that officers are taking this issue exceptionally seriously and are giving it the attention it deserves, especially given the tragic accidents and concerns from local residents.

“We have got to try to analyse the sort of traffic we have got, how much traffic there is and the speed of traffic in these particular locations and establish whether speed is an issue here.

“The feeling is that more and more traffic is using the A697 because people don’t like using the A1 because of its inadequacies.

“Now, more than ever, we need to get this baseline information and evidence which could be the first step to getting improvements on the A697.

“If you have experience of the A697 it is not so bad, but if you’re driving too quickly or unused to the road or you have been on a dual carriageway for some distance, the A697 is a very different sort of road and hazards can come as a surprise.

“I think there is a very strong argument for more speed monitoring and more signage to warn drivers to be careful, but money is tight and we need evidence to justify spending.”