A14 injury accidents jump by 27%

HIGHWAYS bosses were put under pressure last night to improve safety along the A14 after new figures revealed injury accidents had soared by 27% so far this year - including one more fatality.

By Danielle Nuttall

HIGHWAYS bosses were put under pressure last night to improve safety along the A14 after new figures revealed injury accidents had soared by 27% so far this year - including one more fatality.

The data, recorded by Suffolk County Council, shows there were more serious-injury accidents along the route in the first nine months of this year than compared to the whole of last year.

A total of 31 serious injury accidents occurred between January and September this year compared to 13 for the same period in 2004 and 23 for the full 12 months in 2004.

Meanwhile, the number of fatal accidents on the A14 has increased from two between January and September last year to three this year, and so too did the level of slight-injury accidents from 118 to 135.

Further figures, revealed by the Department for Transport, show the rate of personal injury rates on the A14 have increased by 57% since 1995, from 91 to 143 last year.

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The statistics have prompted Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley to write to the Highways Agency, which maintains the road, and the Department for Transport, calling for answers on how they plan to reverse the trend.

“The A14 is getting more dangerous according to those figures,” he said last night.

“Clearly the A14 is the gateway to Europe from the Midlands and increasing numbers of vehicles are using it.

“The figures I have produced from the different bodies' show the number of accidents has leaped. I think they need to give an explanation.

“I don't know what the solutions area. They need to tell us whether this is an acceptable increase. “Should there be speed cameras or traffic calming? I would not like to speculate. Let the authorities explain what they are going to do about it.

“With the busy Christmas period approaching I expect constant vigilance from the authorities and urge my constituents across Suffolk to display good sense and not to take any risks on our roads this winter.”

The figures were released following a Parliamentary question by Mr Ruffley to Secretary of State for Transport, Alistair Darling, for information on the level of road accidents and fatalities along the A14 in the last 10 years.

In his letter to Peter Smith, area team manager at the Highways Agency, and Dr Stephen Ladyman, Minister of State for the Department for Transport, Mr Ruffley called for explanations on the dramatic increase. He also asked for information on what was being done to reduce the accident rate.

A spokeswoman for the Highways Agency said last night: “The safety of the roads is a top priority for the Highways Agency and we continuously monitor and assess the trunk road network which includes looking at the number of accidents on the road.

“We have a safety improvement scheme at the A14 Rookery cross roads, near Bury St Edmunds, realigning the roads and improving the junction. There's also a scheme at the A14 Haughley bends. It's a £32m scheme which will provide a two level junction. This means traffic will not have to cut across the roads.

“We recently reinforced the Highways Agency safe driving messages.”

Bob Feltwell, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said last night he was greatly in favour of improvements to the A14, which he claimed would help businesses in the county.

“The A14 is getting a bad reputation because of the number of accidents and delays occurring, seriously disrupting business life in Suffolk for all sorts of businesses,” he said.

“Personally I am regularly delayed going to Cambridge and Newmarket, not only by the accident level but the slowness in clearing the road afterwards.

“The Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce is similarly concerned about the A14 to Huntingdon and they are lobbying for changes.

“Why can't heavy good vehicles use the inside lane only in morning and evening rush hours as they do successfully in Belgium?

“It would reduce the frustration of small vehicles. A lorry overtaking can take two miles to overtake. Businesses have to travel. They cannot sit around waiting for park and ride or trail travel.”

Guy McGregor, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for roads and transport, also voiced his support for improvements.

“For the majority of roads in Suffolk, we have little influence on the Highways Agency,” he said.

“The Highways Agency should sharpen its act. We want to get traffic accidents down to an absolute minimum.

“I am delighted David Ruffley has asked questions about something which is a Government responsibility.”

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