Calls for A47 safety work after accident

STEPHEN PULLINGER Campaigners last night demanded urgent consideration of fresh safety measures on the A47 Acle Straight following a horrific accident which left a baby trapped in his car seat underwater for five minutes in a roadside dyke.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

Campaigners last night demanded urgent consideration of fresh safety measures on the A47 Acle Straight following a horrific accident which left a baby trapped in his car seat underwater for five minutes in a roadside dyke on Sunday evening.

Adrian Gunson, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for transportation and chairman of the A47 Alliance, said a Highways Agency study looking at the feasibility of moving the dykes away from the road appeared to be "going nowhere slowly".

The nine-month-old boy rescued from a Citroen Saxo, which rolled into a dyke on the Acle Straight near Halvergate following a crash with a Mercedes, was last night still in a critical condition in Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge.

There was a similar accident two years ago when hospital worker Glenn Fransham drowned in a dyke.

Mr Gunson said: "It is irresponsible beyond words not to do something about the A47 when pressure on the road is bound to increase with Yarmouth getting a large casino and the outer harbour just round the corner."

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The £40,000 feasibility study was announced by roads minister Stephen Ladyman last July at the same time as a limited package of road improvements, including resurfacing work, carried out on the Acle Straight before Christmas. As part of the study, scheduled to be finished in the next three months, the Highways Agency held a meeting on Tuesday with key stakeholders.

An agency spokesman said: "This meeting was to review the state of progress and look at similar schemes that have been carried out in this country and abroad, assessing environmental considerations and the impact on the ecology."

She said when the study was completed it would go back to the minister for his consideration - it was not yet clear at what stage its findings would be made public.

Mr Gunson questioned the need for such detailed environmental consideration when the ecology of the dykes had been fully addressed in an earlier consultants' report on the Straight four years ago.

He said: "A lot of the roadsides are degraded anyway and farmers dig them out in a big way. If they are so precious, surely there should be a management agreement with farmers?"

Yarmouth council deputy leader Barry Stone said it seemed irrational but it appeared that the town would have to suffer traffic chaos on a level never experienced before to convince the government that road improvements were needed.

He said: "Unfortunately, the delay in road improvements is likely to mean further accidents. It is obvious that the safety work carried out on the Acle Straight so far has had little impact."

Yarmouth MP Tony Wright said: "I am concerned to know what stakeholders they are talking to. Is it mainly envir-onmentalists or the people who use the road as well?"