The most dangerous stretch of road in Britain ... and it’s on our doorstep

The Swarland junction on the northbound carriageway of the A1, scene of a fatal accident in 2007.
The Swarland junction on the northbound carriageway of the A1, scene of a fatal accident in 2007.

A SECTION of the A1 has been described as ‘the most dangerous road in Britain’.

The four-and-a-half-mile dual-carriageway stretch between Hampeth and the River Coquet saw three deaths per mile between 1999 and 2010, with eight accidents leading to 13 deaths.

That amounts to the same number per mile, over the same period, as the A406, in north London, named as Britain’s most dangerous road on the BBC’s Every Death on Every Road in Great Britain website. Since that data was compiled, there has been one more fatal accident, just after Christmas last year, making the total deaths 14.

And at a meeting in Swarland last week, residents of villages which surround the road and use it on a daily basis asked for something to be done to improve safety.

Chairing the meeting, Swarland resident Ken Walters said: “After the last accident, we listened to politicians and councillors on television and radio saying that something has got to be done.

“But nobody has asked this community, the people that use that road, what they feel.”

He added that the accidents have involved people of all ages, in all kinds of vehicles and all weather types. And he said that each fatal accident costs nearly £1.8million.

“In an accident where there is serious injury, it costs £205,000,” he said.

“We are talking about phenomenal amounts of money.

“If the Highways Agency says it doesn’t have the money to do anything, I would say it’s going to cost you even more if you don’t.”

Liz Newton, from Acklington, said her heart was in her mouth every time she had to cross the A1 at the Swarland/Guyzance crossroads.

“I find it so difficult,” she said. “Every time you cross you have to have such concentration and extra vigilance. It is such a dangerous junction.

“One of the worse things for me is when you come over the brow of the hill southbound, you have to brake sharply to turn left to Acklington.

“People behind don’t expect cars to slow to 20mph on a dual carriageway and there are people right on your tail. Every time my heart is in my mouth.”

She added that another bugbear is roadworks signs obscuring drivers’ lines of sight, at both junctions and central reservations.

Concern was also expressed about drivers entering central reservations when others were already there, ignoring red chevron areas.

Tony Hood, from Felton, said: “The road was made even worse when they put in that terrible crash barrier. At first you couldn’t see at all. When we complained, they re-aligned it but it still isn’t good enough.”

Comments were also made about residents in the surrounding villages having no choice but to use the A1, but lines of sight being impaired at nearly all junctions.

There was also concern that since that part of the A1 was constructed, the volume of traffic has increased considerably.

Mr Walters added that farm vehicles crossing from Swarland to go to Acklington or southbound, have to face northbound in the central reservation because it is too small.

A unanimous vote called for a 50mph restriction, as on the A1 in Elkesley in Nottinghamshire, with average speed cameras to control drivers, along the four-and-a-half-mile stretch.

Mr Walters wrote to the Highways Agency, which is responsible for the trunk road, and asked for someone to attend the meeting.

In reply, he was told that ‘safety’ work had been carried out, two non-serious accidents had taken place at Swarland and that no representative would be at the meeting as there was nothing more they could add.

Swarland resident Vera Vaggs described the road as a an ‘extremely bad country lane’ and said: “I want to express anger about the reply you received from the Highways Agency.

“It is obvious that the person you spoke to had no idea about listening to other people.”

Another meeting is to be held, with a representative of the Highways Agency present.

Clare Mills, senior researcher for MP Sir Alan Beith, said she would take the concerns to Sir Alan, and take it up with the chief executive of the Highways Agency.

County councillor for the area, Trevor Thorne, is to organise a delegation from the community to meet officers from the county highways department and the Highways Agency to address local concerns.

A Highways Agency spokesman said: “We have carried out safety improvements on the A1 near the Swarland junction, including improved signing and a restriction on southbound vehicles manoeuvring across the central reservation.

“Although we were unable to attend the recent public meeting, we will continue our discussions with local residents.

“When sufficient data is available, we will review the improvements to the junction and consider whether there is a case for any additional safety improvements.”