Thursday, 08 October 2015

An accident every 36 hours on A595

THE A595 is used by some 30,000 vehicles every week.
It is one of the main roads in Cumbria and with a total length of more than 80 miles, is also one of the longest.
But some parts of the A595 have been left untouched for more than 100 years.
With an accident happening on average every 36 hours, campaigners have long fought for improvements.
As part of the Evening Mail’s Revamp Our Roads campaign, reporter AMY FENTON takes a closer look at a solution that was first put forward 150 years ago – a bridge across the Duddon Estuary.

LADY Mary Jardine has been campaigning for a Duddon crossing for more than 20 years.

Her ancestors were discussing the possibility of building a bridge 150 years ago.

Lady Jardine said: “In 1992 we held a big public meeting to discuss replacing the existing Duddon Bridge and out of that came a proposal for another option – a bridge from Millom to Askam.

“Since then, the bridge has been on the cards and has surfaced every now and again, but it has come to the forefront now because of plans to build a power station at Kirksanton.

“But we need the bridge regardless of the power station.

“If Sellafield had to be evacuated or if there was a major incident, the fast response team have to come from Barrow, and that road is simply not sufficient.

“It has got to the point of resembling a pressure cooker and something has to give.”

One of the major problems for motorists using the A595 is the width of the road.

In some places, it is barely wide enough for two cars to pass.

Michael Irving’s family have lived at Doveford Farm in Grizebeck since 1908.

The farm is split into two sites on either side of one of the A595’s worst bottlenecks.

Mr Irving said: “There have been three accidents here in the last week.

“We find stone on the road every day from where cars have hit the wall.

“For us the answer would be a bypass at the top end of the farm buildings, a bridge across the estuary would help reduce the volume of traffic but it wouldn’t cure the problem.”

Cumbria County Council figures show that since 2004, accidents on the A595 between Grizebeck and Askam have ranged from between 18 and 23 a year.

In the first six months of 2009, the number of collisions had already reached 21.

Sheila Thomas is a teaching assistant at Burlington CE School in Kirkby.

Mrs Thomas was involved in one of the three accidents at Doveford Farm last week. Mrs Thomas said: “People get very impatient and they take risks.

“The worst accidents happen as a result of people’s frustration.

“One of these days it is going to be more tragic.”

Police officers visited the primary school after Mrs Thomas’ accident to get the safety message across to the children.

Mrs Thomas said: “It’s reaching a critical point and something has to be done. The traffic is getting worse and worse and the road is narrow and inadequate.

“It would be a very sad state of affairs if any businesses along the A595 suffered as a result of building a bridge but I value life more than trade.”

Police figures show that between 2002 and 2007, the number of accidents on the A595 totalled 1,245. On average, one every 36 hours.

The volume of traffic using the A595 is another bugbear for residents in the surrounding villages.

In the last five years the daily number of vehicles using the road has averaged around 4,000, 10 per cent of which are HGVs.

Kirkby councillor Ian Cragg has lived in the village for 40 years.

Councillor Cragg said: “We’ve been asking for a bridge for eight years now.

“When these roads were built, they weren’t built to take this volume and type of traffic. Far too many HGVs use this road, particularly at the moment because they are shipping waste from Burlington Slate quarry to fill in the docks at Barrow.

“At one point they were taking 1,500 tonnes a day.”

Parish council clerk Bob Morrish said future improvements to the A595 would not be a priority if a bridge across the estuary was built.

But, he added, the bridge would prevent further damage to the road.

Mr Morrish said: “The ultimate answer for easing the traffic on the roads is to build the estuary crossing but that would then kill any chance of improving the roads.

“However, it is the level of traffic that is causing the problems and because the road was built on slate, it is simply not capable of carrying the traffic that is using it.”

In a review of Cumbria’s transport needs, highways authority Cumbria County Council acknowledges problems with the A595. The Routes to a Prosperous Cumbria document says: “The route is single carriageway and, particularly south of Sellafield, is very poorly aligned in places. As well as connections to the region, there are sub-regional issues around poor links to Millom and nearby towns.

“For significant stretches of the route there are no alternatives.”

But the county council has said a bridge across the estuary is a proposal it is willing to consider.

A spokesman said: “This autumn Cumbria County Council will start consulting with people about transport issues to help shape and form Local Transport Plan Three, which comes into effect in 2011 and sets out the plans and objectives the county council has in place for the county’s road and transport system. Improvements for the A595 between Sellafield and Barrow will be given a high priority in LTP3, so once public consultation begins, we’d encourage people to let us know their views about changes to the A595, including a crossing of the Duddon Estuary, if this is what people want to suggest.

“Creating a crossing over the Duddon Estuary was identified as a possible aspirational scheme in Routes to a Prosperous Cumbria but it would require a massive amount of money to turn this ambitious aspiration into a reality.

“Nuclear new builds could also lead to changes and improvements on the A595 as the transport infrastructure would need to be investigated as part of the nuclear proposals.”

RWE npower is behind the proposals to build a nuclear power station at Kirksanton. The site is one of three in Cumbria which has been nominated as a possible location. A spokeswoman for RWE npower said: “A new nuclear development could be the catalyst for positive investment in West Cumbria’s infrastructure, including potentially the transport network.

“But at this early stage it’s too soon to say whether specific improvements would be required or how this would be funded.

“Any required improvements to the transport network would be carefully considered as part of the planning process for any new nuclear development in the region.”

The suitability of all three potential sites is currently being assessed by the government.

A Draft Nuclear National Policy Statement containing the findings will be published later this year.




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