Postbag: Road isn't made for our traffic

PUBLISHED: 12:12 10 February 2006 | UPDATED: 21:40 28 May 2010

IT is practically impossible to build a perfectly safe road along the embankment of a Fen drain. Unlike normal roads on the flat, a ridge embankment carrying a road has no real substance on the sides and tends to spread, a phenomenon caused by water ero

IT is practically impossible to build a perfectly safe road along the embankment of a Fen drain.

Unlike normal roads on the flat, a 'ridge' embankment carrying a road has no real substance on the sides and tends to spread, a phenomenon caused by water erosion and the continuous pounding from traffic of all weights. Soil beneath the road surface is subjected to movement.

The Forty Foot (Vermuyden's Drain) was cut in 1651-52 by Scottish and Dutch prisoners-of-war to channel water pumped from the fields. Over the years the drain was widened to cope with improved drainage technology.

As with all Fen drains carrying roads, the Forty Foot road was designed as a narrow earth track to carry nothing heavier than horse-drawn carts and allow access between communities. The embankment allowed emergency access for repair gangs to repair weak areas and fill breaches caused by excessive weight of water.

The road was never intended for the wear and tear it receives in our time. Strengthening it on similar lines to motorways is not possible.

As with all Fen drains, the Forty Foot commands respect. Straight roads invite speed. Many drivers using embankment roads do so recklessly and irresponsibly.

Occasionally I travel to Ramsey along the road at speeds between 45 and 50mph. The number of cars and large vans overtaking at 60 and 70mph astonishes me.

Despite warning signs I have seen vehicles having just overtaken at excessive speed pull in sharply ahead leaving tyre marks on the narrow grass verge.

What do drivers expect in these circumstances? The river itself is a visible warning.

Leaving a few wrecked cars with appropriate warnings on the bank would, I think, remind drivers of the dangers involved. It would certainly make me think.

Any number of circumstances can cause accidents and innocent drivers and passengers are bound to be involved. I'm pretty sure where Fen rivers are concerned many drivers habitually speed without regard to their own safety and are oblivious to the safety of others.

TREVOR BEVIS, St Peter's Road, March

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