A12 accident clear-up speed concerns

AN INQUIRY looking at how to improve the A12 should examine the way major accidents on the road are handled by police, a highways chief has claimed.

AN INQUIRY looking at how to improve the A12 should examine the way major accidents on the road are handled by police, a highways chief has claimed.

Norman Hume, Essex County Council's portfolio holder for transportation and highways, was one of the first people to give evidence during the inquiry's opening session yesterday.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Hume said: “I'm suggesting to the commission that, as part of the inquiry, they should look at how that can be improved - how it can be speeded up.

“If you look back 10 or 15 years, it wasn't such a problem if you blocked a road for half an hour or so. Now it is.”

He said the commission needed to look at ways of helping the police to hurry up the re-opening of roads and said it was possible that Highways Agency traffic officers could be introduced to help get the A12 back in action sooner.

He added: “This is not a knock on the police - if we could all work together to reduce the time roads are actually closed for, it would help.”

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The county council's inquiry into the A12 - dubbed the worst in Britain - will examine ways of improving traffic flow and consider adding a third lane to the dual carriageway.

It is the first inquiry set up by a local authority to look at the performance of a road and is being chaired by former Government transport boss Sir David Rowlands.

Sir David, who retired as Permanent Secretary at the Department for Transport last May, will hear evidence during the next month.

Stanway Road Policing Unit commander, Inspector Steve Brewer said he knew “only too well” the impact a road closure has on traffic and, ultimately, the economy.

He said: “Road collisions are not accidents - somebody is usually to blame and must be held accountable, therefore we treat crash scenes as crime scenes just as my colleagues in CID deal with murders and rapes.

“We will close a section of road following a serious or fatal crash so that we can obtain the best possible evidence to place before a court or coroner, just as detectives do.

“We also have to think about public safety as well as our own safety. Roads are dangerous places and we need to be able to work without fear of vehicles hitting us.

“Likewise, we will ensure debris, oil and other potentially dangerous materials have been cleared from the road before we open them.”

As the inquiry launched, the Essex Labour Group criticised council leader Lord Hanningfield, who has said he could borrow millions of pounds to fund improvements recommended by the panel.

The group said he should concentrate on his responsibilities and invest in repairs to B roads rather than the A12, which is actually maintained by the Highways Agency.

Paul Sztumpf, group spokesperson for highways and transportation said: “The state of Essex roads is unacceptable, especially B roads and on the housing estates, they are riddled with potholes.

“We wanted the Tories to spend more money on these roads to repair them and make them safe but Lord Hanningfield says he is considering borrowing millions of pounds to spend on the A12, which is not even his responsibility.

“Our advice to him is to stop indulging in fantasy but instead do what he should be doing, which is fix the state of the Essex roads for which he is responsible.”

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