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Tractors could be banned from future A-road ‘expressways’

PUBLISHED: 11:52 30 October 2018 | UPDATED: 11:52 30 October 2018

Tractors and other slow-moving traffic could be banned from future A-road 'expressways'. Picture: Ian Burt

Tractors and other slow-moving traffic could be banned from future A-road 'expressways'. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

Tractors could be banned from major East Anglian A-roads in the future, under plans to improve safety by removing slow-moving vehicles from the fastest routes.

Highways England wants to upgrade some key stretches of dual carriageways into “motorway-standard” expressways, with roundabouts and traffic lights removed and slow-moving vehicles such as tractors banned along with vulnerable road users including cyclists and horses.

The first new road to be given the classification will be a 21-mile section of the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon, currently under renovation, which will be renamed the A14(M) when it opens at the end of 2020 after a £1.5bn upgrade.

And according to the long-term “vision” outlined in the Department of Transport’s road investment strategy, options for further expressways by 2040 include sections of the A47 in Norfolk and parts of the A120 in Essex.

Jim O’Sullivan, chief executive of Highways England, said: “Our aspirations are to upgrade further A roads in the future, which may include upgrading to motorway standard where appropriate.”

While streamlining traffic movements on major routes, the plans would require farm vehicles and tractors to use smaller roads – potentially exacerbating the familiar frustrations of motorists who find themselves trapped in queues behind farm traffic.

One East Anglian farmer said part of the solution could be to create incentives encouraging the use of modern tractors, capable of 40mph, which could use the new roads as well as improving rural congestion.

John Collen, who farms near Lowestoft, said: “As a farming industry, obviously we support safer roads and anything that can be done to increase road safety is a good thing.

“My personal suggestion is along with the uplift of A-roads to expressways there should be consideration for allowing us to use the higher-specification tractors, the Fastrac type with the capability to travel legally at 40mph, on these expressways.

“If we were to see legislation change to allow us to use these expressways, these higher-spec machines would trickle through and the net effect would be improved road safety as the wider society gets the benefit of higher specification machinery on all roads. It is a win-win.”

TRAFFIC QUEUES BEHIND TRACTORS

Mr Collen, who has represented his industry in discussions about agricultural vehicles’ access to the A14 Orwell Bridge near Ipswich, also addressed another perennial complaint from fellow road users – tractor drivers seemingly refusing to pull over when a long queue has built up behind them.

“People get frustrated behind slow-moving vehicles,” he said. “There is a code of practice which says how often you should pull over and let people pass, but there is a problem with that. Because of fly tipping, many lay-bys have been blocked by councils so it becomes more difficult for farm workers to pull over to let people pass. You cannot just pull over onto the verge.

“It is a big subject. The economy has driven farms to get bigger and that has led to this rash of tractors on the roads. With population growth and people moving into rural areas it exacerbates all these problems.

“However, we all have to work with each other and deal with these problems as they occur.”

The Highway Code asks slow-moving vehicles to pull in, when safe, to allow a long queue of traffic to pass. Norfolk police said failure to do so can constitute an offence of inconsiderate driving, which can be punished with three to nine points on a driver’s licence and a fine of up to £5,000.

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