Eight escape from three vehicles which plunged into river at same spot within space of 36 hours

North Bank Petition

North Bank Petition - Credit: Archant

Eight people escaped within the space of 36 hours after three cars plunged into a Fenland river at the same spot where a young motorist died earlier this month.

The North Bank Road, near Whittlesey

The North Bank Road, near Whittlesey - Credit: Archant

One of the incidents happened in the early hours of Thursday just hours after an emergency meeting of a safety group had met to discuss the previous two near misses.

Steve Barclay MP.

Steve Barclay MP. - Credit: Archant

The first incident happened at 6.30pm on Wednesday when the four occupants of a car escaped after their car plunged into the river. Only one sustained injuries and received hospital treatment.

Hannah Yates

Hannah Yates - Credit: Archant

On Wednesday at 4.50pm two occupants escaped after their vehicle went into the Nene and at 12.52am there were slight injuries to two people who also pulled themselves free after their car went into the river at the same spot.

Neale Wade 2Young 2Die Safety Film. Graham Chappell talking to the students.

Neale Wade 2Young 2Die Safety Film. Graham Chappell talking to the students. - Credit: Archant

A Cambs police spokesman said: “We would always advise motorists to drive top the condition of the road particularly in the winter when road surfaces are often slippery.”

North Bank, Whittlesey.

North Bank, Whittlesey. - Credit: Archant

Among those at Wednesday’s night meeting in Whittlesey was Phil Yates whose daughter, Hannah, 18, died in November when her car left the road and plunged into the River Nene.

North Bank, Whittlesey.

North Bank, Whittlesey. - Credit: Archant

Graham Chappell, founder of the Fenland Road Safety Campaign and a member of the Whittlesey group campaigning to get a safety barrier along North Bank, attended.

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He said: “Phil spoke at the meeting and told of the devastation Hannah’s loss and gave powerful and unforgettable confirmation of the preciousness of life and of life itself. He also spoke of the absolute need to prevent any further unnecessary loss of life through accidents that could be prevented or made much safer with the measures our campaign has long been proposed for North Bank and its treacherous blind bend.”

It was confirmed yesterday that a meeting with safety campaigners, local MPs and representatives of Peterborough City Council and Cambridgeshire County Council will be held on December 12 to discuss the North Bank.

Mr Chappell said he and others had phoned the city council to insist “there has to be a problem with the road surface. Both Phil and I have been assured the council will address this issue urgently and clean the road to improve the surface. Phil has also asked for a temporary barrier to be put there.”

Mr Chappell’s group successfully fought for a barrier at Bedlam Bridge near March and helped raise some of the money needed to provide it.

He has since embarked on a campaign to raise £15,000 – a third of the cost- to provide a barrier along a 2.2 mile stretch of the North Bank with the rest coming from local authorities.

“There is agricultural mud on this road at the moment and with an accumulation of motor oil and debris and with the absence of heavy rain to wash it away the surface has been very slippery,” he said.

“Within the space of less than two days, eight people have gone into this river – it is just sheer luck we are not dealing with another series of fatalities.”

Mr Chappell said: “You cannot put it down to speed. This is en environmental hazard that can arise at a place like this. We have to go with what we know will be safe and that’s a barrier, exactly as we have proposed.”

Steve Barclay, the MP for NE Cambs, is among the 2,000 signatures on a petition launched to improve North Bank.

“I am looking forward to meeting with the leader of Peterborough Council to discuss the appropriate response in terms of road safety measures which needs to be taken,” he said.

“It is very encouraging to see that the community has come together behind this online petition to call for joint action.”

The petition entitled ‘North Bank Road let’s make it safe let’s save lives’ will be available on December 7 in the market place at Whittlesey when a protest rally is due to take place.

The Facebook group set up to promote the campaign says they will be asking people to sign the petition and put up banners.

“We must make this road safer,” says their Facebook appeal. “We need your support- please bring everyone you can to see if we can make a difference.”

Mr Chappell said it has been “miraculous” no one had been killed or seriously injured in this week’s incidents.

“Had the passengers been children, elderly or with mobility problems there could easily have been a different outcome,” he said.

He said 25 people had attended – at short notice- Thursday’s meeting at the Railway Inn in Whittlesey “and the concerns, issues and potential solutions were discussed and debated with great passions. It allowed for concerns and misapprehensions about the merits of safety barriers, average speed cameras and other measures to be addressed.”

Mr Chappell said proposals were being developed for a committee for a Hannah Yates Memorial Fund Group to be formed to work in tandem with the Fenland Road Safety Campaign to harness and make best use of both groups’ strengths.

“We are aiming for serious investment in a twin track solution to the problems on the North Bank,” he said. For as well as safety barriers he wants to see average speed cameras introduced similar to those at 40ft bank between Chatteris and Ramsey which has been important to reducing accidents along this stretch of riverside road.

Mr Chappell said he had written to the coroner’s office with documents and evidence “highlighting the way in which the interventions now being pursued could have, and should have, been embraced by Peterborough City Council several years ago. It is my hope that this may be acknowledged at an inquest into Hannah’s death and that the justice of our campaign will receive further recognition.

“Too many people have paid with their lives for us to fail; we cannot and will not fail.”

A spokesman for Peterborough City Council confirmed they would be hosting a meeting next month to discuss the North Bank.

“There will be city council representatives as well as Cambridgeshire County Council members there,2 said the spokesman. “We have also invited local road safety campaigners too.”

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