Call for action on A12 safety

Lib Dem councillors Kathy Pollard and Sue Carpendale are calling for action from Transport ministers after compiling a report which shows a shockingly high number of accidents on the A12 South of Ipswich between the Essex border and the Copdock Mill roundabout in the last 5 years. The report, which was compiled with the help of Stratford St. Mary resident Lorraine Clark, is to be sent to Government ministers and a summary has already been sent to parish councils to inform them of the findings.

In the period from 1st January 2006 to 31st December 2010 there were a total of 215 accidents, which resulted in 298 casualties, including five fatalities. Using Department of Transport figures, the cost of these accidents totals £17,583,000. The majority of the junctions between the Essex border and the Copdock Mill roundabout do not meet modern standards, due to short entry and exit slip roads.

DfT Cost per accident Number of injury or fatal accidents Number of casualties Total cost (£)
Fatal 1,683,810 4 5 8,419,050
Serious 189,200 22 28 5,297,600
Slight 14,590 189 265 3,866,350
Total 17,583,000

Stratford resident Lorraine Clark said “Although we have appealed to the Highways Agency for safety improvements, they have told us that the case for a reduced speed limit from the Essex border to the East Bergholt (B1070) junction is uneconomic. So even though a 50mph limit on this stretch of road would drastically reduce accidents and add less than a minute to journey times, they will not consider it. We are now taking our fight to Government ministers in the hope that they will take the issue more seriously.”

Sue Carpendale and Kathy Pollard are the Liberal Democrat District councillors for Mid Samford ward, which includes Stratford St. Mary, Holton St. Mary and Capel St. Mary.

Councillor Carpendale commented “The number of accidents on this stretch of road is totally unacceptable. How many fatalities do there have to be before any action is taken? And of course non-injury accidents aren’t counted, even though they can cause major delays. Of course we would prefer to see a redesign of all the substandard junctions along this road, but in the meantime average speed cameras could at least keep speeds down to 70mph, even if the Highways Agency won’t reduce speeds below that. There has been serious neglect of road safety on this road for decades. This is even more inexcusable when the Highways Agency has recently spent £70m on overhead signs on the A12 and A14, many of which are still not in use.” See article in East Anglian Daily Times.

Councillor Kathy Pollard, who is also the County Councillor for Belstead Brook Division, added “In other parts of the country reduced speed limits have been used on sub-standard roads in order to decrease the number of accidents. A 50mph limit would also halve road noise and reduce emissions. Whilst we don’t see this as a permanent solution, nevertheless the A12 is a main arterial route to and from the East Coast ports. Surely it’s better to keep the traffic moving, even if the journey will take a minute longer? Reduced speed limits are used on motorways as well as trunk roads in order to regulate traffic flow. We are very disappointed that the Highways Agency has failed to champion the case for road safety. We will be seeking the support of local MPs to back our cross party campaign for improvements.”

Recommended improvements;

For the Birch Lane to Four Sisters section we would suggest one or a combination of the following options:

  • Average speed cameras to enforce the existing 70mph speed limit
  • A reduced speed limit of 50 or 60mph. This would have the additional advantage of reducing noise and emissions as well as accidents
  • Closure of the central reserve gaps on the A12 at the B1068, Stratford Hill and Squirrells Hall Lane junctions

From Four Sisters (B1070 junction) to the Copdock interchange each cluster of accidents should be examined and suitable remedial measures put forward.

Further information:

The A12 dual carriageway from just South of the Essex/Suffolk border to the Copdock Mill interchange has a very high level of accidents. Figures used in the table above were supplied by Essex and Suffolk County Councils, on behalf of the Highways Agency. All but two junctions are substandard. This section of the A12 is sinuous with sections of poor visibility, lengthy gradients and poor camber.

  • 13 of 18 northbound exit/entry slip roads are sub standard
  • 19 of 21 southbound exit/entry slip roads are sub standard

There is a substantial amount of local support for a reduced speed limit from the Essex border to the Four Sisters interchange, based on a survey of local residents in Stratford St. Mary, Holton St. Mary and Higham in April 2009. Seventy one percent favoured a 50mph limit. In addition 83% favoured the closure of the B1068 central reserve gap.

A recent Highways Agency feasibility study (Atkins May 2010) suggested two viable options to improve road safety on this section of the A12: a lower speed limit and the closure of the gap at the central reservation crossings mentioned above. However both options are deemed by the Highways Agency to have low economic returns and are not being pursued.

Curiously in the economic appraisal of the closure of the gap in the central reservation at the B1068 junction, the Highways Agency failed to include accidents on the Southbound carriageway immediately before and alongside the deceleration lane at the B1068 (Hughes Corner) junction. They also failed to take into account the fact that one of those accidents was fatal.   There are no records kept of non-injury accidents, of which there are many.

The article based on this press release appeared in the East Anglian Daily Times on August 27th 2011

Road closures due to road works Wherstead, Copdock, Burstall

There will be two road closures in August, one at night time only:

A137 Wherstead Interchange southern side only 

This will be closed overnight for resurfacing work.

Date of closure                         

23 to 26 August 2011 (overnight works from 2000hrs to 0500hrs)

 Alternative route

 A137 to Brantham, B1070 to East Bergholt, A12(T) to Copdock Mill, A14(T) to Wherstead and vice versa.

 Southbound traffic from Ipswich will be diverted onto the A14(T) to circumnavigate at Nacton Interchange.

Closure of Elmsett Lane, Burstall

Road repairs are being carried out and the closure will be from 30th August for approximately 3 weeks.

Alternative route

This will be via Priory Lane and the A1071.

Closure of C466 Elm Lane, Copdock between London Road and Coachmans

 Reason for closure: Anglian Water sewer repairs

 Date of closure: 15 to 19 August 2011 (closure to remain operational 24hrs until works complete)

 Alternative route

 London Road, Chapel Lane, The Street, Back Lane and vice versa.

European support for Suffolk Rail Freight

This information is courtesy of the Haven Gateway Partnership:

THE Haven Gateway has secured nearly £3 million of European funding as part of a £7.5m project designed to shift about 30,000 containers off the roads and on to rail transport. The three-year Low Carbon Freight Dividend project will support more than 300 SMEs (small and medium enterprises) in making important changes in the way they transport freight – with significant environmental benefits.

SMEs in the East of England will be offered a Low Carbon Freight Dividend (grant) of up to 30%, for moving their freight from truck to train, where traditionally they have used only road transport.

The European funding was announced by Communities and Local Government Minister Bob Neill in his keynote speech at the Haven Gateway’s Annual Reception on Tuesday 26 July. Bob Neill confirmed that the European Regional Development Fund will contribute £2,998,931 towards the project, which is expected to remove at least 11.7 million kgs of carbon dioxide from the logistics supply chain: 7.3 million kgs in the East of England, and 4.4 million kgs in the rest of the UK. The associated environmental benefits, using Defra calculations, would be nearly £3.5 million.

Copdock Mill roundabout works to start in May

At last there is a start date for the long awaited “improvements” to Copdock Mill roundabout (the major interchange between the A12 and A14). However the alterations will not make the improvements many local people want. The order has just been published quoting a start date of May 9th. Works will be carried out overnight. Extracts from the Highways Agency’s letter are included below for information.

What this major road interchange really needs is a total redesign, but as there is no funding for that in the short term, what we have to accept is an interim “fix”. 

The work will be paid for by Hutchison Ports. It is part of the planning agreement, due to the increase in volume of heavy goods vehicles using the roundabout following extension to the port.

The Highways Agency plans to install traffic lights at every junction – including the slip roads. We have argued that the three existing slip roads should be lengthened and allowed to free run as at present. They did not agree.

We did, however, manage to stop them from directing Ipswich bound traffic into the outside lane of the Northbound A12. The Ipswich traffic would have queued with traffic turning right towards Felixstowe and would have caused even lengthier tailbacks – encouraging more traffic to use alternative routes through adjacent villages.

Here is the wording of the notice for the Copdock Mill works:

The effect of the Order would be to – 

1   overnight only between the hours of 8pm–6am on Saturdays and Sundays   either – 

1.1   impose a 10 miles per hour speed limit, when the convoy is in use, and prohibit overtaking on the northbound carriageway of the A12 from its junction with the entry slip road leading from Bentley Interchange J32b to  its roundabout junction with the A12/A14 Copdock Mill Interchange J33, and northbound entry slip road leading from that interchange, or

1.2    close the northbound carriageway of the A12 between its junction with the   exit slip road to Bentley Interchange J32b, including the entry slip road at this junction, and its roundabout junction with the A12/A14 Copdock Mill Interchange J33, diverting traffic at Bentley Interchange onto the C945, A1071 and A1214 back onto the A12 at Copdock Mill Interchange; 

2.      impose a 40 miles per hour speed limit, 24 hours a day in conjunction with lane closures, on –

2.1       the northbound carriageway of the A12 from a point 350 metres south of   its roundabout junction with the A12/A14 Copdock Mill Interchange J33 to its junction with that roundabout;  

2.2    the southbound carriageway of the A12 from its roundabout junction with the A12/A14 Copdock Mill Interchange J33 to a point 550 metres south of that roundabout, and 

2.3       the circulatory carriageway of the roundabout at the A12/A14 Copdock Mill Interchange J33/J55;

3.      impose   a   50  miles  per  hour  speed  limit  in  conjunction  with  lane closures – 

3.1       for 24 hours a day –

  • on the northbound carriageway of the A12 from its junction with the exit  slip road at Bentley Interchange J32b to a point 350 metres south of its roundabout junction with the A12/A14 Copdock Mill Interchange J33, 
  • on the A12 northbound entry slip road at Bentley Interchange J32b, and 

3.2    overnight only between the hours of 8pm – 6am, on the A14 between points 250 metres north of the centre point of the A1071 overbridge and 700 metres east of the centre point of Grove Hill underbridge;

4.      impose either a 40 miles per hour speed restriction, 24 hours a day throughout the duration of the works, or close overnight only between the hours of 8pm – 6am, the A14 eastbound and westbound entry and exit slip roads leading from and to the A14/A12 Copdock Mill Interchange J55; diverting vehicles via Sproughton Interchange J54 and Wherstead Interchange J56;

5.      close, for 24 hours a day, the lay-by adjacent to the –

5.1       northbound carriageway of the A12 situated 400 metres south of its junction with the A12/A14 Copdock Mill Interchange J33,

5.2       eastbound carriageway of the A14 situated 700 metres southeast of the entry slip road at Beacon Hill Interchange J51, and

5.6       westbound carriageway of the A14 situated 700 metres east of the centre point of Grove Hill underbridge; and 

6.      close, overnight only between the hours of 8pm and 6am, the circulatory carriageway of the roundabout at the A12/A14 Copdock Mill Interchange J33/J55, diverting vehicles via the A14 Sproughton J54, Copdock Mill J55 and Wherstead J56 Interchanges.

 The Order would come into force on 3 May 2011 and have a maximum duration of eighteen months.

Network Rail press ahead with rail freight link in Ipswich

Network Rail are pressing ahead with the rail freight link to the North of Ipswich station. This will provide a direct route from Felixstowe through to the Midlands. The project is called the “Ipswich Chord” and the second phase of the technical consultation is currently underway. The proposals should remove 750,000 lorry journeys off local roads each year.

They are planning to submit a formal planning application to the Infrastructure Planning Commission in May or June this year. If approval is given Network Rail plans to start construction in 2012 with completion in 2014.

 The explanation of the location, length and purpose of this link is given below and is taken from an explanatory note produced by Network Rail. 

The Order authorises the construction and operation of a new railway chord, 1100m long, to the north of Ipswich Goods Yard, linking the Great Eastern Main Line and East Suffolk Line Railways. The purpose of the chord is to allow freight trains from the Port of Felixstowe to access the West Coast Main Line Railway by a more direct cross-country route from Felixstowe to Nuneaton instead of being routed north via the Great Eastern Main Line and North London Line. This will provide increased freight capacity whilst reducing the conflict between freight and passenger traffic on busy commuter routes and it forms a key part of a wider project to improve gauge and track capacity for freight movements to and from Felixstowe. The construction of the railway includes the widening of the existing railway bridge over Sproughton Road, the widening of the existing embankment along the north-eastern boundary of the Great Eastern Main Line Railway, between Europa Way and the River Gipping, a new bridge across the River Gipping, an embankment carrying the chord on the south-eastern side of the River Gipping and the reconstruction of the existing bridge carrying the East Suffolk Line over the River Gipping.

 The route improvement between Felixstowe and Nuneaton includes:

  • Gauge enhancements between Peterborough and Nuneaton to ensure the entire route can carry the larger, more economical freight containers increasingly preferred by global shipping firms
  • Capacity enhancements between Ipswich and Peterborough: (i) a new 1km stretch of track, or chord, north of Ipswich goods yard, linking the East Suffolk and Great Eastern lines (ii) two 775m sections of track east of Ely station to enable better regulation of trains through the junctions at Ely iii) signalling works at Kennett / Bury St Edmunds

Source Network Rail press release 18th Jan 2011

Replacement of the Education Maintenance Allowance

I have shamelessly cribbed the following from my colleague, Caroline Page, as her briefing is very comprehensive and informative:

Remember – although EMA has been abolished, this doesn’t mean that post-16 students will  be left high and dry (although some people want you to believe this, for purely political reasons). Instead the coalition  are proposing a new allowance that will be targeted at those who need it most.

This is very good news for those who are worried that loss of EMA will prevent them attending school or college

The government’s intentions about EMA are therefore very different  to Suffolk County Council’s disgraceful and undemocratic decision to scrap Suffolk’s Explore card tomorrow – right in the middle of the academic yearThere was not even a figleaf of a consultation or ‘conversation.’  So please don’t stop signing the Save the Explore Card petition and pressing for this decision to be reversed. We are now only 1000 signatures short!

The government’s proposals are that:

  • Everybody who started their course this academic year and is on the £30 per week rate will continue at the current rate to the end of the academic year  and will receive payments of £20 per week in their second year.
  • All students on EMA who started their course in the 2009/10 academic year will continue to receive the full rate.
  • An additional £15 million will be set aside to provide bursaries of £1,200 for the most vulnerable students, for example those in care, with severe disabilities or single parents living on their own. This is more than the maximum available to students currently on EMA.
  • Finally, schools, colleges and training providers will have £165 million put into a discretionary learner support fund each year which will be available for them to distribute to students facing financial need.
    This is the equivalent of just over £800 for every young person who received free school meals at the age of 15.

Across the country students face very different costs and barriers to attending school or college. In some places – such as huge swathes of rural Suffolk –  students have to travel a long distance to attend, or may find it hard to get transport. On the other hand, some courses involve prohibitively costly equipment.  Under the new plans schools and colleges can decide individually exactly how to distribute the money available to support their students in need.

The government wants to have a short consultation on its plans. You have till the 20 May to respond to this consultation – which you can do online.

So, if you get or got EMA, if you are a parent, grandparent or friend of someone who had it, has it, or will need support in the future  – or if you are just interested in social justice, please  add your two pennorth. We can ensure properly targeted support for the workers of the future if we all contribute to the decision-making!

Changes to bus services in Belstead Brook Division

A number of evening and Sunday services will be withdrawn from the 4th April in Suffolk. The full list is at the Suffolk On Board website. Liberal Democrats did try to amend the Conservative budget in order to retain these services. Unfortunately our amendment was not accepted.

In my area bus changes and withdrawals include:

87A Stowupland – Stowmarket – Sproughton – Ipswich Evening and Sunday service withdrawn

87B Stowmarket – Sproughton – Ipswich Evening and Sunday service withdrawn

88B Stowmarket – Sproughton – Ipswich Evening and Sunday service withdrawn

90 Ipswich – Hadleigh Evening and Sunday service withdrawn

91 Sudbury – Hadleigh – Ipswich Timetable/route change

93 Ipswich – Capel St. Mary – East Bergholt – Colchester Evening and Sunday service withdrawn

93C Cattawade – East Bergholt – Capel St. Mary – Ipswich Timetable/route change

94 Ipswich – Tattingstone – Capel St. Mary – Upper Layham – East Bergholt Timetable/route change

95 Capel St. Mary – Ipswich Timetable/route change

107 Hadleigh – Whatfield – Ipswich Service withdrawn

Bus services in Suffolk slashed by Conservatives

Suffolk County Council’s ruling Conservatives have shown where their priorities lie. They are cutting subsidised bus services, closing Bury Road Park and Ride and ending the eXplore card, which entitles young people to a half fare on buses in the County. At the same time they are keeping the road maintenance budget intact. Surely some savings can be made from this service? Of course potholes must be filled, but with deep cuts to other frontline services, why are roads sacrosanct?

Bury Road Park and Ride closure latest

Yesterday the East Anglian Daily Times covered the story: http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/politics/anger_as_park_and_ride_closure_rubber_stamped_1_705576

Then we heard that the Government had given the go ahead for the £25m project “Ipswich Fit for the 21st Century”, which aims to reduce congestion in the town and improve facilities for bus users, cyclists and pedestrians. As Suffolk County council has also received £830,000 European funding for encouraging workers in small and medium sized enterprises to use their cars less, it makes even less sense that they are closing Bury Road Park and Ride.

Bury Road Park and Ride closure confirmed

There are none so deaf as those who will not hear! Having spent nearly two hours pointing out that the figures given for Park and Ride income in Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet paper of 12th October could not be correct, Conservative councillors voted to close the Bury Road site anyway. Also the council has just received £830,000 in European funding to encourage Ipswich workers to switch from their cars to buses, walking, cycling, etc. Set against that context the decision makes even less sense.

So why is it that, if ticket sales have gone up by more than 50% in the last two years, the income from those sales is going down? The Cabinet paper also stated that passenger numbers at Bury Road Park and Ride were going down. They clearly aren’t. Could it be that this was put in to deliberately mislead?

Assumptions are also made that 50% of Bury road passengers will transfer to London Road and that concessionary pass holders would not be prepared to pay a half fare for their return journey. Both of these statements are incorrect, based on a survey of 200 passengers which we carried out on Saturday 23rd October. We found that:

  • Less than a third (29%) said they would transfer to the London Road site
  • Around 90% of concessionary pass holders said they would be prepared to pay £1 or £1.50 for a return journey in order to keep the service open
  • 15% would not bother to shop in Ipswich, but would transfer to Bury St. Edmunds, Norwich or Cambridge
  • Ticket sales for Bury Road were 192,00 in 07/08; 245,000 in 08/09; 306,000 in 09/10.
  • Around a quarter of passengers came from Stowmarket and Stowupland

Also there are no final figures for the cost of varying the contract with First. At this point we are considering referring this to the District Auditor as there seem to have been some serious issues of accuracy within the papers. Here is the link to the papers: http://apps2.suffolk.gov.uk/cgi-bin/committee_xml.cgi?p=detail&id=1_14828