Highways chiefs accused of saving money over lives

David Rixon is concerned about the grass cutting along the A1.
David Rixon is concerned about the grass cutting along the A1.

HIGHWAYS chiefs responsible for maintaining the A1 in north Northumberland have been described as more concerned about saving money than saving lives.

For years fears have been voiced about the dangers of the dual carriageway section of the A1 between Felton and Alnwick, which has seen a number of crashes in recent years, some of which have been fatal.

But now the Highways Agency has come under fire for failing to maintain the road properly by not cutting back grass on central reservations and junctions which obscures drivers’ views of the road on what has been described as ‘the most dangerous section of dual carriageway in the country’.

The chairman of Newton on the Moor and Swarland Parish Council Coun David Rixon described the situation as ‘horrendously dangerous’ at last week’s monthly meeting and said a strong stance needs to be taken on the problems.

He said at Newton on the Moor the problems had been particularly bad.

“They are being very selective about which junctions they are cutting,” he said. “But you cannot see cars coming from the outside lane.

“I brought the problem up at the last north area committee meeting and I was told that the policy is not to cut grass on the central reservations to save money and I think that is really bad.”

Coun Vera Vaggs said: “I thought saving lives was more important than saving money.”

Despite work taking place to cut back the verges at junctions both at the sides of the road and on the central reservations it was claimed that it hasn’t been cut far enough back to give drivers a full view of oncoming traffic.

Coun Don Hutton said: “When you join the A1 from Newton on the Moor to turn north it hasn’t been done enough to see traffic coming from the right hand side. It completely obstructs your view.

“You are taking your life in your hands.”

Coun Brian Long described it as ‘absolutely disgraceful’.

A Highways Agency spokeswoman said: “We want to ensure that our road network remains safe and serviceable while continuing to look for better value on behalf of the taxpayer.

“We are reviewing and challenging whether the location and frequency of grass cutting on verges and embankments is cost effective or necessary, and whether it is good for the environment.

“In this case, we have instructed contractors to go out and review the grass which has been cut at junctions on this stretch of the A1 and assess whether any further cutting is necessary.”