It's time to close killer gaps

IT'S time to close the killer gaps once and for all - and today make the busy A12 safer for every single motorist.

Richard Cornwell

IT'S time to close the killer gaps once and for all - and today make the busy A12 safer for every single motorist.

In the past few years seven people have been killed in accidents where vehicles have made right-turns across fast-moving oncoming traffic - families left mourning loved ones who should not have died.

Momentary errors of judgement led to their deaths, but the simple truth is that these gaps should not exist on a modern road network where vehicles are doing 70mph, many - illegally - going much faster.

Today Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer called on county highways chiefs to look again at closing the gaps even if it meant longer journeys for some drivers.

And the county council said the possibility had not been ruled out, even though expensive public inquiries would be needed before the changes could be made.

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In the latest accident, husband and wife Pauline and Frederick Hadden, both 87, were killed after leaving the Seckford Hall Hotel near Woodbridge in their silver Ford Fiesta, turning right across the A12 and colliding with a Mitsubishi Shogun.

Eight years ago Edward and Pamela Bishopp ,aged 74 and 73, died when their car was hit by a lorry crossing through the gap at Brightwell.

In July 1995, Betty and Kenneth Goodman were killed as they crossed oncoming traffic on the A14 near Trimley St Martin to the Bucklesham/Brightwell junction as they travelled home from a day out at Felixstowe.

Following the death of the couple - aged 74 and 77 - the Evening Star launched a campaign to get the gap closed and it was shut two months later.

On the A12 at East Bergholt, off-duty police officer Sergeant Bob Walsham died when his motorcycle was struck by pensioner Patricia Maltby's car as she turned right onto the B1068. Maltby, 71, of Sudbury was jailed in November for 16 months for causing his death.

The accidents at Woodbridge and Brightwell are on stretches of the A12 managed by Suffolk County Council.

Mr Gummer said: “I do think it is time to look again at these two junctions and see if they can be closed.

“It will mean a little bit extra time on people's journeys because they would have to go down to the roundabouts at the end of each stretch of road to get onto the correct carriageway.

“At Woodbridge this is quite a short journey and at Brightwell/Foxhall it is longer but not huge.

“We need to look seriously at this because people expect on these very fast roads to be safe - and for the sake of another couple of minutes on the road we would all be safer.

“I think it is a reasonable adjustment to make.”

Guy McGregor, county council portfolio holder for roads and transport, said it was vital to improve safety at the right-turn gaps.

“We are looking closely at the future of these junctions but no decisions have yet been taken. As far as I am concerned all options are still on the table and will be considered,” he said.

- Should these right-turn gaps be closed? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail

In summary: Process of closing a gap:-

IT could take a public inquiry to close each of the killer right-turn gaps on the A12.

When retired Melton couple Edward and Pamela Bishopp were killed when their car was in collision with a coal lorry crossing four lanes of traffic at the Kennels Lane gap at Brightwell in 2000 it had been hoped to close the gap.

Three others had also died on the same stretch of road and four been seriously injured, but closing the gap was not straight forward.

It was felt the move would lead to formal objections because of the lengthier journeys it would cause to farm machinery and lorries using businesses at the side of the road and some residents who would have to travel to the Foxhall or Seven Hills roundabouts.

This would result in a public inquiry and possibly the payment of compensation to people with a right of access through the gap.

Costs made it difficult to justify proceeding with such a course of action and instead signs were put up restricting motor access to only those with premises and homes on the side roads.

The same problem is likely to force some serious thinking about the gap near the Seckford Hall Hotel, where Pauline and Frederick Hadden, of Crofton Road, Ipswich, were killed.

Hotel owner Michael Bunn has urged the county council to erect signs alerting drivers to the crossover junction which leads to his venue and Great Bealings.

“Cars coming from Ipswich go up the hill towards the junction and they are all trying to race up to get in before the road becomes a single carriageway,” he said.

“They are not really taking into account the fact that there is a crossing and that in itself is a worry. The problem is that there is no advance warning of a crossing junction and I think the county council needs to put in warning signs about the junction and perhaps the speed limit ought to change.”

Suffolk county council officers say they are currently working on an A12 safety scheme for the stretch from the A14 Seven Hills roundabout north to the A1094 junction.

“As it is a long route the planned changes will be low cost measures such as changes to road signs and road markings,” said a spokesman.

“This road safety project is planned to be carried out in spring 2009. However, if the police accident investigators recommend any changes we will consider incorporating these into the planned works.”

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