Causeway rescuers clock up worst year on record

LAST year saw a huge rise in the number of cars becoming stranded on the Holy Island Causeway leading to the worst year on record for rescue services.

But joint efforts are being made to find solutions to the problems, which led to the Seahouses lifeboat crew and the Holy Island Coastguard rescuing people from stranded vehicles on numerous occasions in 2011.

The incidents usually involve tourists or visitors trying to cross the causeway outside the safe crossing times.

The Seahouses lifeboat crew attended 16 incidents, rescuing 29 adults and two children, taking the total number of people rescued since 2000 to 190.

Ian Clayton, lifeboat operations manager at Seahouses, said: “The whole issue is a nuisance.

“It uses up a lot of time for the emergency services, it’s an inconvenience to people on the island and blocks the causeway until the tow-truck comes.

“It’s not just just a problem for the people stranded.”

But he also warned against blowing the problem out of proportion.

“Hundreds of thousands of people go across, drive on the island, enjoy the island and leave again. It’s only a small minority who cause all this grief for everyone.”

Meanwhile, Ryan Douglas, station officer for Holy Island Coastguard, said that they were involved in 24 incidents in 2011, more than double the number the year before.

He added that they were unsure as to why there was such a large increase from the 11 incidents in 2010.

Following a meeting on the island last August, held in response to 15 people being rescued from the causeway in the first half of the year, a working group was set up to look at options to prevent drivers becoming stranded.

And in December, representatives of Holy Island Parish Council, Northumbria Police, the RNLI, Holy Island Coastguard and county councillors and officers discussed the pros and cons of various schemes.

Those in attendance supported clearer signs and tide tables rather than barriers or bollards, according to a county council report.

Mr Clayton said that it was probably too early to say if these measures will help but there is due to be another meeting of the working group this month.

“I hope there will be firmer options put on the table,” he said.

“Obviously people will be consulted including the islanders and see where we go from there and make 2012 a little less problematic than last year.”

Mr Douglas said: “There have been some good ideas and some should be implemented soon.

“As a coastguard I would urge people to check the tide times when crossing Holy Island Causeway or when visiting any part of the coast.”

Mr Clayton did mention the possible use of existing cameras sited at the Barn at Beal which have a view of the Causeway.

At present, a call made to the RNLI is dealt with at Bridlington and the Seahouses crew is sent out.

Use of the cameras would allow some assessment of the situation and what services would be best employed.

However the county council report suggests that the redeployment of the cameras would cost around £7,000.