Campaigning for A12 improvements in South Suffolk

From Sue Carpendale and Kathy Pollard, District Councillors

There are constant reports in the press of delays due to accidents on the A12. Apart from the human misery this causes, there is a knock on effect to the economy. The A12 is, of course, part of the strategic route to the East Coast ports. We have been involved with campaigns to improve safety on the A12 for more than 30 years. Three years ago we compiled a report with the help of Bill Davies, Chair of Stratford St. Mary parish council, and Lorraine Clark, a local resident. This highlighted the high numbers of accidents between the Essex border and Copdock Mill interchange and made suggestions for improvements, including average speed cameras.

With the upturn in the national economy, traffic has begun to increase again. Tailbacks at Copdock Mill roundabout are becoming more frequent and the likelihood of accidents along the A12 is rising. We felt it was time to set up another meeting with the Highways Agency to seek further action. This meeting took place at the Stratford Institutute on July 30th. We had invited every parish council along the route to send a representative and most attended. District and County Councillors were also invited.

Funding of road improvements has been reduced in the last few years, due to austerity measures, but there is better news for the next 5 year period with big increases in the roads budget. The regional A12 route management strategy has ackowledged the same safety issues we raised in our earlier report in 2011, for example the dangerously short slip roads at Stratford St. Mary and East Bergholt and the winding nature of the A12 between those two villages. In addition there are clusters of accidents all along the A12 and “shunts” on the approach to the Copdock Mill roundabout. Virtually the whole road is substandard from the Essex border up to the Copdock Mill junction.

Issues discussed at the meeting with the Highways Agency on July 30th included:

  1. Capel underpass flooding
    The Highways Agency representatives admitted that there had been a reporting problem when the Capel underpass flooded. It is their responsibility and repair works have now been carried out to the pumps. There was also no information about the underpass closure on the overhead gantry signs and no diversion signs had been set up. We also asked about maintenance as the paintwork is looking very shabby and rust is showing through.
  2. Average speed cameras between the Essex border and East Bergholt
    The installation of these has been delayed until January 2015. The Highways Agency are anticipating the saving of three personal injury accidents each year following installation. The speed limit will remain at 70mph. Speed measurements along this stretch showed that 15% of motorists were travelling above 74mph.
  3. Resurfacing work
    A major programme of resurfacing will be carried out next year between Copdock Mill interchange and the B1070 (East Bergholt) junction. There will be an opportunity to improve drainage, barriers and signage at the same time. Work will be carried out at night.
  4. Noise from the A12
    The Highways Agency was asked what was being done to reduce noise from the A12 as it has become an increasing problem over the years. The response was that nothing specific is being planned at present, but that the new surface should be a little quieter.
  5. Copdock Interchange improvements
    As well as the increase in queuing traffic, there were also complaints about poor and confusing lane marking on the roundabout. Lane swapping is also an issue. Suffolk County Council are currently putting together some options for improvements.
  6. Other safety issues
    The short slip road at the entrance and exit from the garage on the Southbound carriageway at Capel St. Mary was mentioned as an accident risk.
  7. Closure of Hughes Corner right turn to Higham/Stoke by Nayland
    Although accidents have reduced on the A12 near this junction, closure of the Hughes Corner right turn has had a major impact on traffic through Higham and Stratford St. Mary.
  8. Setting up of an A12 Forum
    The Highways Agency representatives suggest that we set up a forum to lobby for improvements and that a further meeting should take place in September/October. With this in mind we will explore further dates with them and invite parish, district and county representatives.

8 thoughts on “Campaigning for A12 improvements in South Suffolk

  1. Haynes says:

    Unfortunately all we here are things like “some options for improvements” and never any serious, major plans that actually future proof the road systems like the A14 and A12.

    Tweaks here and there are proving to not have any long term prospects but cost thousands each time.

    What we need are major changes, which yes, will cost millions for each project but these roads are essential and the holds up are happening every day, not just occasionally!

    • kathypollard says:

      I absolutely agree. Many accidents go unreported because there were no injuries, but they still cause major hold ups on an all too frequent basis. Unfortunately there has been little or no government funding for improvements for some years now. So, as you probably know, the most recent changes at Copdock Mill roundabout were paid for by Hutchison ports. The Highways Agency have assured us that there will be more funding from next year, but I am sceptical, I must say. We are trying to keep up the pressure so that the inadequacy of the A12 and A14 is clearly understood by national government and the regional Highways Agency. The A12 and A14 are, of course, major transport routes, not just for commuters but also for traffic to and from the East Coast ports. I have been raising these issues for many many years and pressing for safety improvements. Persistence works in the end, but it can take far too long!

  2. Richard Terry says:

    I travel this route every day and these tweaks and improvements just don’t go far enough. Nothing is really ever going to improve significantly until the following 3 issues are addressed:

    1.) Elimination of the need to use the roundabout at Copdock to move from A14 to A12 abd vice versa.

    2.) The many short slip roads are improved. Joining the A12 at Holton St Mary is quite literally dicing with death

    Anything else is not addressing the real issues here. I can’t believe that in this day and age one of the country’s biggest container ports doesn’t have a motorway anywhere near.

    • kathypollard says:

      I agree. When the A14 was built it was done on the cheap. The Copdock Mill roundabout is one of a number of poorly thought out junctions along the route.
      And of course the Four Sisters underpass was built down to a price with hopelessly inadequate slip roads. The inadequacy of these slip roads has been highlighted in the A12 route management strategy which makes interesting reading. We are being promised new Government funding to address such issues, but we will need to keep up the pressure and I remain sceptical.

  3. Homeowner says:

    The levels of traffic now “rat running” through Stratford St. Mary, in particular School Lane has reached unacceptable levels, it is dangerous.

    Whoever thought that just changing the signage was going to be enough to persuade the traffic to rejoin the A12 and make their journey even longer is not so clever!

    What is being done??

    • kathypollard says:

      The parish council have been trying to get more effective measures in place to deter rat running. I’m not sure how far they’ve got with the County council though. I’ll ask. The County don’t answer my emails! In our meetings with the Highways Agency we have impressed on them the inadequacy of all junctions between Stratford and East Bergholt and the need for major investment. We will continue to keep up the pressure.

      • Homeowner says:

        Do we have an update on this? It is effectively an A road now.

        • kathypollard says:

          We have received no answers on this issue – or any other questions re the A12. I think the only way we’re going to get anywhere is to organise another meeting with the Highways Agency and Suffolk County council.

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