A34 road safety improvements are on the way
Lorry drivers have branded the A34 ‘unfit for purpose’ as work to improve safety moves a step closer.
The Road Haulage Association has said imminent action is needed on the A34 as it continues to struggle to live up to its modern-day expectations.
The Department for Transport has announced it will fund almost all the recommendations from a safety review of the A34 backed by Oxfordshire MPs, with more announcements expected in the coming weeks.
The recommendations include average speed cameras, improved laybys and digital signage.
Figures obtained by the Oxford Mail show 471 crashes have been recorded on the A34 – which has an average of 80,818 vehicles use it a day – over the past five years.
Almost one in five of these crashes have involved lorries.
And Road Haulage Association regional operations manager Rhys Williams said action is needed now before more damage is done.
He said: “Rarely a day goes by without an incident on the A34, it is a big problem and it needs work doing on it and that work doing now to bring it up to standard for its modern day purpose.
“The Roads Haulage Association has been saying for many years the A34 is not fit for purpose and isn’t what it was originally intended for.
“It is the main artery from south to north and with the volume and traffic using it nowadays – it can’t cope.”
The FOI, from Oxfordshire County Council Highways, found in total there had been 81 crashes involving lorries on the entire stretch of the A34, up to August 2017 – making up 17 per cent of all crashes.
Incidents included one crash in February last year in which a ten-year-old boy and his mum were ‘lucky to be alive’ after being in a crash involving six cars and an HGV between Weston-on-the-Green and Junction 9 of the M40.
Mr Williams said regular crashes on the A34 hit not only the haulage firms but also the local economy if deliveries are late and both businesses incur costs.
Lorries are often held up on the A34 without being able to turn round in serious incidents and unable to divert through surrounding villages.
Highways England’s A34 route manager John Henderson said: “The A34 generally performs well on safety, and has fewer accidents than other roads of its type. Nevertheless, there have been some tragic accidents on the A34 in recent years and we recognise the concern that people have expressed.
“In October we identified up to 16 possible safety improvements for the A34, and have had some really useful feedback on them.”
Mr Williams added that despite lorries being involved in one in five A34 crashes, HGV drivers are not necessarily to blame.
He said: “I certainly wouldn’t lay any blame with anyone.
“The problem with HGVs is there will inevitably be collateral damage from what happens. It is far more noticeable [when a crash involves an HGV] so brings attention much more.
“A car spins off the road and often others can carry on past but if a lorry is involved in a collision the consequences are far greater, they cause more damage and more delays – regardless of whose fault it is.”
The Road Haulage Association has said the dual carriageway should be a motorway, but failing that have a crawler lane for slow traffic at the least.
After years of campaigning for improvements, alongside pressure from MPs, Highways England was prompted to undertake a safety review late last year with a number of improvement recommendations including average speed limits and cameras.
The Department for Transport has now agreed to fund the proposals and said it would implement nearly all of its recommendations.
It includes improved laybys, vegetation removal and digital signage, plus new signs to tell HGVs where they are not allowed to overtake.
MP for Wantage Ed Vaizey said: “I am pleased that the recommendations in the A34 Safety Review are being carried forward and that the Department for Transport has accepted that the A34 needs improvement.
“We would not have been able to get to this point without the work of my fellow MPs, local councils, LEPs and the A34 Action Group. I hope that Highways England can implement the recommendations as speedily as possible and will continue to work with stakeholders to put pressure on the government to continue to improve the A34.”
The Department for Transport is expected to make a formal announcement in the coming weeks.