Lower speed limit 'may cause accidents'

MOTORISTS are being driven to frustration by the new 50mph speed limit on the notorious A140 in Suffolk – and it could potentially cause more accidents, it has been claimed.

By John Howard

MOTORISTS are being driven to frustration by the new 50mph speed limit on the notorious A140 in Suffolk - and it could potentially cause more accidents, it has been claimed.

The year-long experimental limit, coupled with slower speeds through villages, came into operation at the end of June, with Suffolk County Council hoping it would reduce crashes on the road which has claimed more than 80 lives in 20 years.

But a number of people living in the area have already voiced their concern about the impact the 50mph limit is having, with drivers becoming frustrated and long tailbacks being caused.

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And a leading Norfolk county councillor warned yesterday it could lead to more danger on the road - the main route between Ipswich and Norwich.

Adrian Gunson, cabinet member for transport and planning, said: "The problem with slowing traffic down considerably is you get bunching, inappropriate overtaking, frustration. Speed limits can be inappropriately low. In Norfolk 60mph is normal on the road, we try not to have speed limits on rural parts of the road."

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Mr Gunson, who lives near Woodton near Bungay, added: "A reduction in speed will prove, over time, to damage the economy of north Suffolk and Norfolk. We live in a competitive society where businesses need roads for the distribution of their goods. Not everyone can use the trains.''

He does not believe the A140 is up to modern standards, needs turning lanes, bypasses and improvements to allow people to travel at reasonable speeds. He fears lorries are being displaced on to more unsuitable roads.

Tony Fowler, mid Suffolk district councillor for the Stonhams who lives next to the A140 at Earl Stonham, also questioned the new limit - lowered from 60mph - on open stretches of the road.

He said: "To be stuck at 50mph in this day and age of modern vehicles, which are so much safer, is questionable.

"We are getting big tailbacks of traffic as vehicles build up, and getting convoys. It also takes much longer to get on to the A140.

"But it is an awful road and a 30mph limit through the village is the only way in the short term to cut down on the carnage.''

Long term he is hopeful Suffolk County Council will support going to the Government for funding a bypass locally.

Mike Cooper-Reade, a parish councillor at Stonham Parva, said tougher speed limits on the A140 through the villages were a godsend and reduced noise for people living along the road.

But he too does not believe the 50mph limit elsewhere on the A140 is beneficial, and leads to drivers becoming annoyed.

He said: "It's less noisy, there is no doubt about that, but some lorry drivers are getting frustrated and find it difficult getting up hill in a 30mph zone.

"Generally people are pleased though and I would like to see the lower limits kept in the villages, but I'm not so sure about the rest of the road, a 50mph limit makes people frustrated.''

But Anthony Keer, a Suffolk antique furniture dealer and restorer who lives in a village on the A140 with a 50mph limit and uses the road every day to go to work at Stonham Aspal, welcomes the slower speeds on the road.

Mr Keer, who has lived at Stoke Ash near Eye for six years, said: "At first when I heard about the 50mph limit I thought it would cause me problems, but I am quite happy with it now.

"If there is a slower limit and people have an accident, then there should be less danger. It comes down to the driver, idiots getting up too late and rushing.

"People increasingly commute to London from our part of Suffolk and they are still in the A12, A14 dual carriageway way of thinking. It does rattle me when people overtake me like I am a Sunday driver. People should respect the road.''

Deputy leader of Suffolk County Council Peter Monk, who is also portfolio holder for public protection, said: " There is clear evidence that lower, sensible speed limits can help to cut accidents and save lives.

"We are doing all we can to make the county's roads safer, but drivers need to do their bit by taking care while driving, and sticking to the speed limit.

"Obviously it is too early to tell just how successful the new speed limits have been at reducing accidents on the A140, but we are closely monitoring their effectiveness and will assess their impact after a year.''

A spokeswoman for Suffolk SafeCam, the organisation responsible for fixed and mobile enforcement in the county, said they would not disclose the numbers of people caught flouting the speed limit at individual sites.

But she said: "We will have more mobile enforcement out on the A140 in future weeks and months. We have allowed a good amount of time for road users to acclimatise to the lower speed limits.''

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