Air ambulance chief slams poor roads

AN AIR ambulance boss has claimed Suffolk's “appalling roads infrastructure” is putting lives at risk.Simon Gray, an executive director of the East Anglian Air Ambulance, said more than half of the call-outs they deal with involve road crashes.

AN AIR ambulance boss has claimed Suffolk's “appalling roads infrastructure” is putting lives at risk.

Simon Gray, an executive director of the East Anglian Air Ambulance, said more than half of the call-outs they deal with involve road crashes.

It means the charity, which covers, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, deals with more incidents of this type than any other such service in the country.

Mr Gray said last night: “The reason for the number of road crashes is our appalling roads infrastructure. There are only seven miles of motorway in all three counties, making it the worst-served in all of England and Wales.


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“Coupled with lots of agricultural vehicles, causing people to get frustrated and overtake, it leads to a lot of crashes.”

Mr Gray said the charity responds to about 1,400 call-outs a year, with the majority focused on the A14, A140 and A12.

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“We have incidents on all of the main roads you can think of in Suffolk because the road infrastructure is so poor,” he said.

“Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk is the worst served region in England and Wales for roads.

“I don't think there is a 'golden bullet' solution. There needs to be research and consultation as to what the people of the region want. I personally would not want to witness the concreting over of huge swathes of Suffolk but I do think expenditure on the road infrastructure as part of a rounded transport policy to include rail, park and ride and other novel approaches.

“However, from a safety perspective, improving the road infrastructure is essential. Undoubtedly, there has to be some expenditure on road improvements and that's part of the answer.”

Although recognising the need to invest in roads, Suffolk County Council said the high number of crashes dealt with by the air ambulance is largely down to it being the fastest mode of transport.

Guy McGregor, the authority's portfolio holder for roads and transport, said: “We've said for some time there has been under-investment in roads but we've got to remember Suffolk is a very large county.

“The reason for the number of call outs dealt with by the air ambulance is it is often the quickest way of getting a patient to hospital.”

Mr McGregor said the newly-elected Conservative authority is committed to delivering its manifesto pledge of improving the county's road network.

“Despite opposition from Labour in debate, we do believe roads need to be improved in Suffolk,” he said.

“Our policy is to do that. We're also looking at soft engineering solutions because we know we're not going to get Government money for major bypasses.

“The Government demands strong criteria to justify these schemes and we've got to play by the rules.”

Mr McGregor said lowering speed limits had helped cut accidents, claiming this had helped make the A140 in Suffolk safer.

A spokesman for the Highways Agency, which is responsible for the A14, said: "Modern roads like the A14 in Suffolk are built to high standards. We are committed to maintaining the trunk road network in a safe and serviceable condition and to improving the network further to reduce the number accidents.

“Of the accidents occurring on trunk roads we know only about 2% have contributory factors concerned with the road and its environment. The great majority of accidents result from driver error."

The spokesman said a £12 million safety improvement scheme was recently completed at Rookery Crossroads, near Bury St Edmunds, while proposals for a £32 million improvement to the A14 between Haughley New Street and Stowmarket have been put forward.

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