Clearer signs could solve island problem

CLEARER signs and tide tables, rather than barriers or bollards, look set to be the way forward as efforts are made to prevent drivers becoming stranded on the Holy Island causeway.

At a meeting on the island in 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.

And at the start of this month, representatives of Holy Island Parish Council, Northumbria Police, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the RNLI and county councillors and officers discussed the pros and cons of various schemes.

High-impact options that were discussed included barriers, bollards and a variable message sign, according to a report to the county council’s area committee north.

Barriers are a very unpopular option with islanders and sparked a nearly 150-name petition ahead of the August meeting.

However issues of reliability and practicality as well as possible increased risk as people tried to avoid the barriers led to the rejection of this idea, likewise it was felt that bollards may increase problem parking on the island.

Those at the meeting did support installing a variable message sign as a high-impact option. A practical experiment for this scheme, estimated to cost between £12,000 and £16,000, could be held at Easter.

It was agreed that the signs and tide tables could be difficult to read or understand, especially from a car, and that they should be simplified and made more uniform. In the case of signs, it is estimated that this will cost £10,000.

The creation of a mobile phone app was also supported as, even with problems of coverage and not everyone having a smartphone, it is a cheap and easy-to-implement option.

Another issue to be looked at is providing information via the ticket machines in the island’s car parks. Replacing the machines would be very expensive and printing information on the tickets would be costly but attaching tide tables to the machines is to be looked at.