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How many more? Calls for action after yet another accident at A38 blackspot

By Cheddar Valley Gazette  |  Posted: February 16, 2012

  • Emergency at Cross – this was the scene at the crossroads on Thursday. Photo: Mike Dearden

  • Emergency at Cross – this was the scene at the crossroads on Thursday. Photo: Mike Dearden

  • Emergency at Cross – this was the scene at the crossroads on Thursday. Photo: Mike Dearden

  • One of the victims is taken to hospital by air ambulance. Photo: Mike Dearden

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Anger has mounted following the major accident that closed the A38 at Cross on Thursday.

For years locals have asked for road improvements but nothing has been done.

The local MP Tessa Munt, county and district councillors John Denbee, Liz Scott and Dawn Hill and councillors from the two adjoining town and parish councils lined up to demand action from Somerset Highways.

“Without a fatality, they won’t do anything,” said Mrs Scott. “It’s sad they won’t spend money unless someone dies.”

The cost of making major changes is disputed. Ms Munt said she was given the figure of £600,000 to put in a roundabout while parish councillors were briefed with a figure of £1m for lights from the highways authority.

According to the Association of British Drivers the cost of a non-fatal major car crash is £154,110. That figure doesn’t include the cost of lost business, missed air flights and all the other fall-out caused to the public caught up in the traffic jams.

Mrs Hill said it was unacceptable to say it was too expensive. She said she would keep battling on with Somerset Highways to get the improvements needed.

Mr Denbee said: “Alan Ham had campaigned for years on this and I’ve been pushing for action. I’ve seen plans for improvements there, but plans are one thing, we want action. They have said that improvements will happen in the next few days. The clearance of vegetation and replacement of signs will take place with more improvements promised.”

Jim Lukins lives just yards from the crossroads and has lobbied on previous occasions for a roundabout at Shute Shelve where the A371 meets the A38 and for access to Cross Lane to be restricted. He said he had been told many times by highways that money was the problem.

MP Tessa Munt said: “I use this stretch of road several times a week myself and it is a difficult junction, with confusion about who has priority.

“There are many ‘near misses’ which don’t appear in the statistics. I am sure it could be made safer.”

Compton Bishop Parish Council chairman John Bell said: “It is very depressing that crashes just keep happening and they will continue until the traffic management, with or without road realignment, is upgraded to deal properly with this very complicated and busy junction.”

Parish councillor Richard Parker arrived at the scene of the crash soon after it happened. He said he had heard one informed estimate that the over-all cost could approach £1 million.

He said: “A number of people have had their lives shattered either by their injuries or the trauma. Then there is the worry for their families, and the effect on witnesses or even the large number of emergency crews who were involved.

“The highways experts keep telling us that accidents are basically the result of poor driving standards but we just can’t accept this cop-out of responsibility.”

The landlady of the New Inn, Emma Britton, said there had been a meeting in the village with the highways people and a one-way system was muted. This she said was unpopular with all the villagers as it would push the problem elsewhere and create a lengthy diversion.

She said the highways officials were asked what it would take to get lights installed and the official replied “someone has to die”.

A spokesman for Somerset County Council said: “We can not comment on the incident in question as we have yet to see the outcome of any investigation, however numerous measures at the junction have previously been explored with the local community.

“Officers therefore put forward a package of improvement measures for funding this financial year under the new Local Transport Plan. To which end we have been working with Councillor John Denbee towards implementation, elements of which are programmed to begin next week.”

What do you think should be done at Cross?

Your views please to The Editor, Cheddar Valley Gazette, Southover, Wells, BA5 1UH or email editor@midsomnews.co.uk.

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