Gearbox fall congestion in Yarmouth could have been avoided

A large piece of industrial machinery which has fallen from the lorry transporting it on to the road

A large piece of industrial machinery which has fallen from the lorry transporting it on to the roadside on South Quay in Great Yarmouth.Picture: James Bass - Credit: James Bass

Travel disruption caused by a gearbox falling off a lorry might have been avoided if the highways department were able to get hold of the police, it is claimed.

Traffic was brought to a standstill on Friday, March 4, with South Quay closed to traffic in both directions for eight hours after a wind turbine component fell off a lorry.

Now the county council's highways team have said they tried to contact police to ask them to postpone the removal work until after the evening's rush hour, but they could not get an answer, either on the 101 number or a special direct line number.

Thousands of motorists and public transport passengers were hit by the traffic standstill and resultant delays.

The lorry carrying the machinery was also unable to be moved from where it had stopped opposite the library, near a set of traffic lights.

The police and highways decided to close the road while waiting for a crane to arrive to deal with the problem, however, as time went by, it became clear it would affect the evening's rush hour.

At the county council's transport committee meeting last week, Cllr Mick Castle, who represents Great Yarmouth North and Central, asked why the machinery could not have been left on the pavement where it had fallen – at 10am – until after the evening peak.

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Responding to Cllr Castle's question, Toby Coke, chairman of the committee, said the county's highways department had tried several times to contact the police.

He said that staff from highways department wanted the road closure to be lifted until after the evening rush hour.

Cllr Coke added: 'A number of calls were made to the police control room via both 101 and a number provided to the county council but they were unable to get a response.

'County council officers monitored the congestion map during the afternoon and, as the congestion increased, more calls were made to the police, but again, none were answered.'

A spokesman for Norfolk Police said: 'Norfolk Constabulary have only recently been made aware of these concerns; however we have not received any direct or official complaint regarding this matter.

'In order for us to respond in an appropriate manner we would need full details of who made the specific calls to the police, at what time and to which telephone numbers.

'However, it is important to remember any decisions over road closures are always made in conjunction with the highways authority. Should the councillor wish to approach us directly regarding this matter, we would be very happy to discuss it further.'

Cllr Castle said: 'The communication was so bad. It is heartbreaking when you think that thousands of people's lives were mucked up because of the closures when the crane was not going to arrive until the evening.

'Until a third river crossing is in place, traffic in Yarmouth relies on continuous flow and all day road closures like this produce massive disruption and unwarranted inconvenience to the public.'

In his response, Cllr Coke added: 'The police operations meet with the county's highways representatives every six months to review operational problems and seek to improve liaison.

'This matter will be added to the agenda at the next meeting, as an example of better two way communications being required and a higher priority to the congestion on the highway network when dealing with incidents that impair the free flow of traffic.'

A spokesman for Lincolnshire-based haulage company John Somerscales which was transporting the gearbox, said an investigation was still taking place to find out what caused the machinery to fall from their lorry.

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