Saturday, 24 January 2009

Death on the A12 at Blythburgh

UPDATE 21/2/08 another fatal crash at Wangford.
UPDATE 14/2/09 yet another crash at Blythburgh. Thankfully not a fatality this time.

Another fatality at Blythburgh and the Henham turn-off for Southwold has been reported today. Visitors to Latitude watch out, this junction is a notorious blackspot.

When will it stop? My memory recalls about one serious accident at this junction per year but it is next to impossible to locate real figures. Perhaps there should be a national database to identify blackspots like the USA has.

I suspect there is one for the UK in some computer but the public can't access it without a lot of paperwork. It always takes an outcry to do something about it.

I recall in December 2002 going to a heated meeting in Saxmundham Town Hall (see below) when the civil engineering consultants Faber Maunsell (then Oscar Faber) were reviewing improvments to the A12 in the AONB that was attended by representatives of every parish council. Here lights at Darsham were demanded as well a bridge or pedestrian crossing at Yoxford and a host of other worthy measures. The report later concluded:

"Previous route condition studies along the corridor have concluded that there are a number of local accident clusters and local junction problems, but that these are not exceptionally severe in comparison with other parts of Suffolk."

These lights were finally erected in December 2008 after two people, both community-active pensioners, died in a road accident when crossing the A12 at Darsham two years before in December 2006.

Gerald and Henny McDonald were killed in a collision with a car when walking from the train platforms to the station's car park on the other side of the road at a level crossing. An inquest in July 2008 heard that having no lights made this crossing a dangerous place for pedestrians.

A cruel irony is the case of a grandmother, Vera Clark who was killed crossing the very road she campaigned for safety improvements on.

Residents of Blythburgh though have taken the matter into their own hands with a police backed
initative to cut speeding.

The Lowestoft Journal, an Archant newspaper, used to have a campaign to improve the A12 but lately the website has been a blank.

These are the 'A12 at Blythburgh' accident stories still available from the EADT website:

Concern for rising road deaths (with statistics)

Crash at Blythburgh after concert: Teenagers Claire Stoddart, 18, her sister Jennifer, 15, and their friend Carla Took, 18, plus Simon Bonner, 40, and Kim Abbott, 41, died after two cars crashed head on the A12 at Blythburgh in July 2006

After digging in my files, I found the following text files I'd saved from 2002


Suffolk County Council (SCC) is working with consultants, Oscar Faber, to develop a route strategy for the improvement of the A12 corridor between Ipswich and Lowestoft. The project team are identifying problems and issues and exploring possible solutions.
Please print off and complete this questionare to give us your views about the A12 corridor. (dead link)


The A12 between Ipswich and Lowestoft is an important route serving the eastern fringe of Suffolk. Since the 1 June 2001, responsibility for the operation and management of this section of the A12 lies with SCC. Oscar Faber was commissioned to develop an action plan for the A12, designed to meet the needs of local people, business and visitors. This project is being carried out in support of the aims of the Local Transport Plan. Principal objectives are to deliver solutions for:

* Greater use of sustainable travel options. * Improved environmental conditions. * Better travel safety. A key outcome of the work will be to prioritise resources so that the most cost effective solutions for improving the route are implemented.


* The A12 between Ipswich - Lowestoft is part of the primary route network serving local and regional needs. * The section being studied runs in a generally south-north direction from the A14 at Seven Hills, near Ipswich to Lowestoft. * The A12 has been improved in a piecemeal manner over the past 40 years resulting in a variety of widths and alignment standards. * Traffic flows vary along the route. * The route bypasses several communities including east Ipswich, Martlesham, Woodbridge, Wickham Market, Ufford, Saxmundham and Wangford. * It passes through several other communities and serves significant amounts of ribbon development, that front the road, as well as providing numerous connections to adjacent small towns and villages. * First Eastern Counties bus company runs a limited stop service between Ipswich and Lowestoft and other village bus services use parts of the route * Anglia Railways operates the East Suffolk Rail Line that runs between Ipswich and Lowestoft; the line is mostly single track, has a maximum speed of 55mph and is slower in places due to locally operated level crossings.


* Approximately 26,000 vehicles per day are carried along the route in the south and 14,000 in the north. Generally it operates without major delays. * There were 403 accidents involving injury to road users during a five year period to September 2001 - of these injury accidents, 76 were serious; 9 were fatal. * At sites where there is a history of accidents, safety improvement schemes will be carried out. * There are no bypass improvements programmed for the A12 (between Ipswich & Lowestoft) but there is funding available to improve the route to make the road safer, more efficient and, improve the environment. * Approximately 500,000 single passenger journeys are made on the East Suffolk train line each year. * The Rural Bus Fund has funded an hourly service on the Ipswich to Leiston loop (Service 80 + 81).
In initial consultations people have already said: * Some traffic travels too fast along local roads * Driving along the A12 is dangerous * The A12 is an important access route for the area * It is hard to turn on/off at some junctions * Things should be done to preserve the rural nature of the area * There are places where it is unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists * It is an easy road to drive along * More bus services are needed. * More should be done to encourage train travel.


The consultation process within the overall study seeks to understand, identify and prioritise the needs and preferences of local residents, businesses, users of the route and other stakeholders with an interest in the study area. This involves holding group discussions, interviews, conducting surveys and public exhibitions.

By completing the questionaire you will contribute to a project that affects your community and, you can enter a prize draw to win two first class return train tickets from any station on Anglia railways trains to London!

* Please print out the questionnaire (dead link)

* Answer the questions * Place the completed questionnaire in an envelope and send to-MARKET RESEARCH

* Return by Friday 22nd March 2002 (or anytime until June according to the PR I phoned.)


A series of public exhibitions will be held to display the results of the study and consultation. Representatives from Oscar Faber and the County Council will be present to answer questions and listen to ideas. A questionnaire will be available to complete. Following the exhibitions, the route plan will be developed.

Please come along with your friends, family or colleagues and tell us what you think. We look forward to seeing you there!

Public Exhibitions:
21st March 12pm - 9pm Saxmundham Market Hall

22nd March 12pm - 9pm Woodbridge Shire Hall
23rd March 12pm - 9pm Kessingland Community Centre


For further information about this study, please contact:
Dawn Korosso

Malborough House, Upper Malborough Road,St. Albans, Hertfordshire AL13 UTT
020 8784 5544

A meeting was held on 2nd December 2002 at Saxmundham Town Hall to present the results of the A12 Route Management Study by consultants to Suffolk County Council. It had a vigourous debate and a near unanimous vote that the attendees wanted the A12 made a dual carriageway from Ipswich to Yarmouth, a promise that was made by Westminster in the 1990's to be carried out by 2005, but not recommended by the study.

Rory Poole of consultants Oscar Faber presented the draft findings of the study commissioned by David Chenery for the SCC. 34,000 people were contacted in total, 33,000 leaflets distributed and 2,167 postal questionnaires were received and there were 143 workshop attendees.

Safety was the key concern above other operational characteristics. The KSI (killed or seriously injured) accident per journey/mile ratio is up 26% in last 5 years. Speed limits were key issue raised by public.

The Farnham section was cited as most in need of improvement.

Many improvements proposed such as crossings for pedestrians and bicycles (at Darsham).

Many users wanted improvements in East Suffolk rail line.

Blyth Valley highlights of the A12 RMS Implementation Plan:

Year 1 2002-03 Improve accident monitoring, Implement speed limit review, Improve bus stops. Implement traffic signal junction in Wrentham.
Year 2 2003-04 Improve accident monitoring, Implement pedestrian improvements in villages, Improved train interchange at Woodbridge and Darsham.

Year 3 2004-05 Improve accident monitoring, Implement spurs from National Cycle Route and other cycle route extensions. Saxmundham rail station improvements, Implement improved lay-bys as passing places and provide facilities for drivers. There is a shortage of rest stops and fuel and refreshment places, especially for HGVs.

Year 4-8 2005-11 Improve accident monitoring, Junction and link improvement:A12/A1095 Southwold junctionToby's Walk junction, New safe passing places

Proposed speed limits:

Yoxford and Darsham: extend 30 mph zone and 40 mph buffer zones.

Blythburgh: new 30 mph limit with 40 mph buffer zones

Expected additional journey time after all speed changes implemented between Seven Hills and Bloodmoor is approximately another 5 minutes to theoretical 39 - actual 45 minutes journey times.

Consultant's recommendation is no progression on bypass schemes and no dualling schemes, as both unlikely to pass public enquiry within the NATA guidelines.

The strategy would be taken to the meeting of the SCC executive committee on December 19th. Copies of the study should be with all relevant councils by now.

Joan Girling chaired a lively Q&A session:

Speaker from Stratford wanted to know why the report did not recommend a bypass in Stratford St Andrew in the Farnham section. There was much approval from all present that this was a dangerous and difficult spot and bypass efforts have been underway for a long time. Joan Girling responded with that the number of journeys did not justify a bypass and the road can't be improved or straightened without compulsory purchase. A 30 mph limit will be implemented.

Speaker from Melton asked about black spot warning signs and made a request for a speed triggered warning sign there. A representative from Southwold complained that the road signs were often badly placed and a proliferation was an information overload. Rory Poole responded that harmonisation of the driver information was part of the plan.

Wenhaston representative wanted to know if a wished for deceleration lane turning from the A12 was recommended. Rory Poole said it was not in the plan.

There was a long debate over the merits of speed cameras citing one at Snape turnoff. Speakers from Aldeburgh and Leiston said the drivers southbound were accelerating because of the dual carriageway and then decelerating again because of the speed camera at the return to single lane. It was a hazard because the length of dual section doesn't do enough to release traffic built up behind a slow moving vehicle, drivers get frustrated so the dual section should be increased. Joan Girling's response was drivers should not get frustrated but allow more time for journeys.

A Southwold representative said there were not enough lay-bys for slow tractors and trailers to pull over. Rory Poole said more lay-bys are in year 3 and 4 of plan. Some doubt was expressed that agricultural vehicles would use them.

Speaker from Woodbridge asked for a footbridge but David Chenery said it had been studied before and site didn't have enough room and too many mains services would need to be re-routed. A level interchange was best option. David Chenery went on to say that Spring 2003 will see rollout of five more speed cameras on A12.

A speaker from Martlesham said A12/A14 Gt Bealings was of concern, recent traffic improvements actually caused new problems and tailbacks and queue jumping was a hazard. Rory Poole said the footprint of the roundabout would be improved and more consulting with police.

Speaker from Lowestoft asked for improvement in A12 capacity (ie dualling) as essential to Lowestoft economic regeneration. Joan Girling said other economic regeneration schemes are underway to improve Lowestoft and as the A12 was now detrunked, Lowestoft should look west for communications improvements and not south.

Speaker from Yoxford asked for pedestrian crossing on A12 and Rory Poole said this was top of the list in year 2.

Speaker from Leiston said the study's findings are that the roads are clearly inadequate and nothing is delivered in the plan to remedy the undercapacity. SCC is hiding behind NATA assessments to do nothing. Joan Girling gave a passionate rebuttal saying so many other road schemes need priority and NATA requires consideration of many more factors than before.

Speaker from Martlesham asked what could be done with local employers, ie BT to improve road use. David Chenery said that SCC had been talking to BT for years to adopt a green travel plan without progress.

A question of the methodology of the risk assessment was put by a HSA engineer and satisfactorily explained by David Chenery.

An opinion was put forward that the study was more a plan to control costs than improve roads. Speaker from Blything Ward said that the plan did not do enough for the people of Lowestoft and the Blyth Valley and that improved road capacity was vital to the economy of the area or the area would starve. Joan Girling said a dual carriageway would not happen in her lifetime. Joan Girling was reminded of prior Govt promises for the A12. Joan Girling said not everyone wanted a dual carriageway. A show of hands was proposed and I estimate 80% were in favour. Joan Girling said it was about 50% so it was proposed that opponents raise their hands but the meeting was adjourned at 8.10 instead.

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