ACCIDENTS: A solution has to be found

The crash scene being cleared after the fatal incident on the A1. Picture by Steve Miller.
The crash scene being cleared after the fatal incident on the A1. Picture by Steve Miller.

In recent weeks we have all seen more fatal accidents on the A1 and yet again promises given for action, that for whatever reason, never seem to be carried out. This has to stop and stop now.

After the fatal accident in 2007 at Guyzance/Swarland crossing where three people sadly died, a report was produced by the police accident investigation team that recommended: ‘In the interests of public safety this cross-over point should be closed’.

This report was sent to the Highways Agency, Northumberland County Council and Alnwick District Council.

On reading this which was very detailed, I, as chairman of the district council asked for a meeting with all of the organisations to find out what was to be done.

It was no surprise that there was a reluctance to have any form of discussion but eventually a meeting was held at which members of Swarland and Felton Parish Councils were invited to attend.

The Highways Agency, in spite of the police report, stated they thought this cross-over was sufficient to cater for the amount of traffic using this junction, but would however improve signage and road markings to make drivers more aware.

When asked if he would support his own officers’ report, Chief Constable Craik declined to do so.

Facts: Only the Highways Agency are responsible for the A1, this includes all or any signage, improvements and winter gritting.

Northumberland County Council is responsible for all other highways in the county and they have a lot of influence in how other agencies operate.

Northumbria Police are responsible to enforce any moving traffic offences, this includes speeding.

At this meeting, a 50mph speed limit with cameras was proposed on the section from Felton up to Shilbottle, this according to both Highways Agency and Chief Constable was unenforceable.

It was pointed out that at Stannington for over 15 years a similar limit had been in force with excellent results.

Also due to the large number of fatalities at the cross-over point this had been closed.

The Chief Constable when asked if an increased police presence could be used replied the resources weren’t there and other issues had priority.

As you can imagine these responses did not go down very well with those attending the meeting.

That there is something clearly wrong on this stretch of road is beyond dispute. The problem being on one wants to accept responsibility.

Clearly the road markings/ signage introduced since then is having no effect; drivers continue to ignore these warnings and continue to speed, far in excess of the 70mph.

So what happens now? For a number of years motorists have adhered to a 50mph speed limit due to road works between Alnwick and Felton.

Indeed there is now in force a speed limit at the Alnwick junction for the next seven months.

This appears to work. Why can’t a permanent limit be applied to the rest of this road?

The western bypass at Newcastle has a 50mph limit and has been reduced to 30mph at the Coalhouse roundabout. This is enforced by the use of average speed-check cameras.

This road is the same responsibility of the Highways Agency.

If this is workable here, why not elsewhere on the A1?

The technology exists and I firmly believe the resources are there to put a 50mph camera-enforced limit, along with a police presence when necessary, on this stretch of road.

Speed cameras are sited elsewhere on the A1, so why not here?

Who is responsible for the siting of speed cameras? It would be expected that due to the number of fatalities here this is an area that warrants this now.

This problem will not go away and indeed with the expected increase in traffic usage will very likely become worse.

Housing developments in areas such as Alnwick and the surrounding areas will increase traffic, of that there is no doubt. To bury ones head in the sand will not make this problem go away.

It appears the Highways Agency is accountable to nobody and that the local authority, for reasons best known to themselves, don’t want to face up to this problem either.

No one organisation can solve this problem, it takes the will of everyone to sort this out.

Nearly eight years after this report was made very little progress has been made. This is shameful.

I fully support all of the comments made by Ken Walters over the last few weeks and I am as frustrated as he is at the lack of action by all of these groups.

I will publicly ask all of these organisations to state their reasons why no progress has been made, either through the press or better still a meeting, which I am willing to attend, as I am sure Ken Walters would, where a workable solutions has to be found.

Perhaps the prospective parliamentary candidates would like to attend as whoever is elected they will have a large amount of influence on any future decisions.