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Sheppey Crossing safety raised in Parliament

27th November 2014
Sheppey Crossing safety raised in Parliament

Local MP Gordon Henderson used a parliamentary adjournment debate on roads in Sittingbourne and Sheppey to highlight again his concern about safety on the Sheppey Crossing.

In his speech Mr Henderson mentioned the massive pile up that happened in September 2013, the tragic accident earlier this year in which a mother and son were tragically killed and the frightening experience of Islander, Eileen Nichol, who last week broke down on the bridge and had to watch helplessly as cars swerved to avoid the car in which she took refuge.

Mr Henderson concluded by saying:

“Something must be done, and it must be done soon. My constituents and I have waited for more than a year for the Highways Agency to undertake a review of safety on the bridge.

“After the September 2013 pile-up, as a bare minimum I called for proper matrix warning signs on the bridge. I still think that we need those signs, but I am absolutely convinced that we now need to consider even more measures, such as using average-speed cameras to enforce the 70 mph speed limit, better CCTV monitoring of the bridge to spot breakdowns sooner and to enable the police to close the bridge quicker and the installation of emergency telephones and refuge bays, so that people do not have to stay in their cars if they break down.”

He went on to make the following plea the Transport Minister, the Rt Hon John Hayes MP, who was responding to the debate:

“My constituents and I have been very patient with the Highways Agency, but that patience is wearing thin. Please will my Rt Hon Friend put pressure on the agency to undertake a safety review of the Sheppey crossing and to do so without any further delay?”

In his response Mr Hayes revealed that the Highways Agency was already undertaking its own internal review and was examining options for various potential improvements.

Mr Hayes added:

“He (Mr Henderson) has long called for those improvements, and did so again today. However, it would be wrong to prejudice the police or the coroner’s findings by making any proposals public at this time. As he is aware, the Highways Agency has agreed to meet him and other interested parties as soon as is possible to discuss concerns and ideas and take matters forward as appropriate.

“I will go a little further, if I may, not withstanding my caveat. I listened closely to what my hon. Friend said. He ended his remarks by saying that something must be done, and it occurs to me that more indeed is needed. I do not want to prejudge the detail, but it seems to me that the status quo is not an option.

“Perhaps I can just say this: my hon. Friend has spoken about safety on the bridge. The account of the pile-up in 2013, with which he is fully familiar, leads me to believe, as he does, that the events that his constituent endured last Friday could have led to a similar incident.

“I do not want to over-dramatise, but given what he has told us today it seems important that we act very promptly indeed once the investigations are complete. I give him the undertaking that when they are complete, within a very short time—I suggest within 14 days—we will convene a meeting, with which he should be involved, and that from that meeting, again within a short time, we will produce some preliminary proposals.

“Those proposals will then need to be considered in some detail for their feasibility and cost-effectiveness, and we will want to engage the wider community as well, but it does not seem to me to be unreasonable to introduce a degree of alacrity into the process, given the powerful case he has made.”

After the debate Mr Henderson said that he was pleased with the response he had received from the minister.

“It is quite clear that the continued pressure that I have been exerting on the Highways Agency is starting to pay off.

“I am pleased that an internal review into safety on the bridge has already been started. It shows that the Highways Agency acknowledges something needs to be done.

“I am pleased also that the minister gave a personal undertaking that when the police investigations are complete into the most recent tragedy, a meeting will be convened within 14 days. I will hold him to that promise.”

In his speech Mr Henderson raised also other problems on the A249, such as the Stockbury Roundabout, the Grovehurst Roundabout and the need for dualling from the Queenborough traffic lights into the docks. He also raised the problems at Cowstead Corner and the traffic lights at the junction of the A2500 and Barton Hill Drive.

In his response Mr Hayes committed that the Highways Agency would work with Swale Borough Council, developers and the community to assess the situation with the Grovehurst Roundabout and bring forward any improvements that might be necessary.
With regards to the problem of the traffic lights at Barton Hill Drive, Mr Hayes revealed that although his department were not directly responsible for the A2500 he has asked the Highways Agency to liaise with Kent Highways on the matter.

Mr Henderson said:

“I welcomed much of what Mr Hayes had to say. However, one matter on which he would not be drawn was my request for support in my lobbying of the Chancellor for the Stockbury Roundabout to be included in the next round of priority road schemes.

“I am hoping he was just being coy because the Autumn Statement is due next week and a number of road projects will be revealed. I am keeping my fingers crossed that my lobbying has been successful and the Stockbury Roundabout is included in the list.”

To read my speech in full please CLICK HERE!

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