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Wiltshire Council takes action on A350 deathtraps

January 24, 2012 8:36 AM
By Trevor Carbin

Highways supremo and road safety campaigner Dick Tonge is proposing measures to increase road safety on the A350 north of Chippenham. This follows a number of fatalities caused by people turning through the gaps in the central reservation. The proposals, which now go out for consultation, are:

(i) That the closure of the Pretty Chimneys crossovers be progressed.

(ii) That prohibition of U turns in both directions at The Moors, Courtfield Farm, Lower Swinley and the agricultural crossings be progressed.

(iii) That the additional signing at the Days Lane junction and for the Junction 17 truck stop be progressed.

For the report see http://cms.wiltshire.gov.uk/ieDecisionDetails.aspx?ID=531

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In 2010 Chippenham councillor Bill Douglas called for a redesign of the A350 between Chippenham and the motorway following another fatal crash on the road. Speaking at the time he said: "The accident that occurred last week on the dual carriageway from Chippenham to the M4 highlights the dangers that every motorist using that stretch of road knows exist. There are ten openings in the central reservation and these are potential death traps for the unwary, inviting and allowing motorists to use them to U-turn onto the opposite carriageway.

These openings were never designed for U-turns. Six of them are only narrow openings to give access, for tractors, to farmers' fields. Four of them are openings to allow access to only ONE house or business. There is one, 'Farm Access', warning sign at each end of this two mile strip but none of the openings has any individual warning sign.

"This may have been acceptable years ago when the roads were built and there was no motorway, but this road is now one of the major access roads to the South of England and as such a major highway, and must be treated as such. These openings are regularly the scene of serious incidents, the skid marks motorists see daily before the openings are indications of another near miss or another accident."

In a message to Wiltshire Council he went on to explain that, "The central reservation grass area is overgrown completely in large sections, so most motorists, local and visitors, fail to realise the openings are there. They are then taken completely by surprise, when overtaking, to find the car in front suddenly braking. The result is a screech of brakes and a crunching of metal. Even worse, the openings are so narrow that when a long-load vehicle decides to turn, the wagon has to take the nearside lane and then cut across the right lane to get through the gap. If another vehicle is overtaking at the time and is not aware of the opening then the scene is set for a fatality. This seems to have been the case last week."

Cllr Douglas asked for an Emergency Temporary Measure to close or individually sign the openings. "It may inconvenience a few who live or work there, but the safety of the public should prevail. I therefore ask that Highways fully assess the situation, ASAP, as to the possibility of closing all or some of these death-trap openings," he said.