Dilema facing safety experts

PUBLISHED: 11:50 03 February 2006 | UPDATED: 21:40 28 May 2010

PREVENTING Fen drain crashes has proved a major problem for council highways chiefs over the years. Cambridgeshire County Council's road safety experts have been considering options for Forty Foot Bank for a number of years and have attempted a range of w

PREVENTING Fen drain crashes has proved a major problem for council highways chiefs over the years.Cambridgeshire County Council's road safety experts have been considering options for Forty Foot Bank for a number of years and have attempted a range of work.But in response to a letter from North-East Cambridgeshire MP Malcolm Moss, the council says the weakness of underlying soil, the width of the verge and close proximity to the river makes many stretches of Fen roads unsuitable for safety barriers.The only way to support barriers would be to use sheet piling and long, driven posts, making it prohibitively expensive.The council's director of highways and access, Mark Kemp, told Mr Moss: "A conservative estimate of the basic cost for a 7,600m-long barrier would be in the order of £898,000. Over 10 years this might prevent perhaps seven accidents in which vehicles would otherwise enter the drain. Of course, after colliding with the barrier they might then be redirected into oncoming vehicles."In Cambridgeshire, the entire capital funding allocation for medium-sized casualty reduction schemes in 2005/06 was £900,000. Schemes funded from that budget have to compete on the basis of potential accident reduction.Mr Kemp adds: "This leaves us in the regrettable position that a potential reduction of less than one crash per year, no matter how serious, would not score very highly."We have to find ways to prioritise issues, as have all other highways authorities in the country."After a county-wide accident study of fen drain roads in the early 1990s, a 50mph speed limit was introduced along the Forty Foot Bank together with signs giving the numbers of deaths and injuries.Later, signs warning of the danger of the river together with red warning patches were installed.Stretches of the road have been re-graded and resurfaced to remove irregularities and improve the skidding resistance.

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