Star calls time on highway chiefs

PUBLISHED: 19:00 22 May 2002 | UPDATED: 11:58 03 March 2010

SHAME on you!

That's the Evening Star's verdict on Suffolk County Council today, for being as slow-moving as some of the traffic causing terrifying danger on one of the area's busiest roads.

SHAME on you!

That's the Evening Star's verdict on Suffolk County Council today, for being as slow-moving as some of the traffic causing terrifying danger on one of the area's busiest roads.

For here we are 18 months on, and still no action has been taken to close the killer gap on the A12 at Brightwell – despite highways chiefs' promise that it would be shut.

Vehicles can still turn right across 70mph traffic, just as happened the day that Edward and Pamela Bishopp were killed in an horrific crash.

And each day many more drivers still run the risk of a similar accident at the gap and the possibility that someone else could die needlessly.

Today the Evening Star asks: When will this gap finally be closed?

And why is such a simple safety project taking Suffolk County Council so long?

The gap in the central reservation crash barrier could be closed tomorrow if the highways officers really wanted to – and people would just have to take a detour to the nearest roundabout and back to reach their homes and land.

That's a small price to pay for safety.

Gaps on the A14 on the Felixstowe peninsula were closed immediately after a series of death crashes, and alternative routes worked out later, ending the danger straight away.

If the Highways Agency can do that, then why cannot the county council on one of the roads that it manages?

Mr and Mrs Bishopp were heading along the A12 on December 19, 2000, when their Honda Accord was in collision with a 40ft artic as it turned right across their path at Kennels Lane.

Mr Bishopp, 74, a retired chartered accountant and his wife, 73, were both killed in the crash, which caused shockwaves throughout the community.

Just two months later, in February last year, the county council announced that the gap would be closed – surely the only correct move to ensure that such a tragedy was never repeated at this spot.

Four months later officers said work to prepare a scheme was progressing well and in October last year they said work would start early this year.

November saw the lorry driver involved in the fatal crash, Keith Wright, face court and afterwards lodged an appeal against his conviction.

Six months more have now passed and Wright's appeal is now being heard – proving that even the courts move quicker than the council – and the inquest has taken place into Mr and Mrs Bishopp's death.

But as the months have gone by, still no action has been taken and the gap is still able to be used each day by cars, lorries, motorbikes, tractors and other heavy, slow-moving farm machinery.

Council officials said there would be a temporary closure and brought in a specialist consultancy to design necessary changes to the road to enable farm vehicles to have the access around the area.

Rod Sore, Suffolk County Council team leader for safety and signals, said today: "The closure of the gap at Brightwell on the A12 is in our programme of work for this year.

"We are currently looking at the implications over rights of access and are still in the process of consulting with local people."

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