Make the A505 Safer: History of crashes on ‘road of danger’

PUBLISHED: 17:01 17 August 2018 | UPDATED: 19:31 17 August 2018

The Crow is running a campaign to Make the A505 Safer. Picture: Danny Loo

The Crow is running a campaign to Make the A505 Safer. Picture: Danny Loo

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Crashes on the A505 have long been reported, but looking back through Crow archives from the last four decades highlights the extent of the issue.

In 1988 the A505 was number one in a poll by the Royston Crow – and in places five and seven – for the top accident blackspots in North Herts and South Cambs. Picture: Royston Crow archiveIn 1988 the A505 was number one in a poll by the Royston Crow – and in places five and seven – for the top accident blackspots in North Herts and South Cambs. Picture: Royston Crow archive

Decades before we at the Crow started our Make the A505 Safer campaign, it was regularly being called the ‘road of danger’ in our paper.

There are an astounding number of stories of people who have been hurt or killed – and yet many longstanding problems have not been dealt with.

Yes, there are now speed cameras, but the speed is the same as it was in the ‘80s when there were fewer cars on the road.

Choosing a point in history to start my research, I’ve barely turned the page before I see that an eight-year-old Ashwell girl died in March 1981. She was being driven by her mother before they crashed with a lorry on the A505. This alone should have prompted the authorities to push changes through.

In 1987 the Crow reported on teenage motorcyclist Simon who had “narrowly escaped death at a notorious blackspot” on the A505, and that his father had a premonition of the tragedy. Picture: Royston Crow archiveIn 1987 the Crow reported on teenage motorcyclist Simon who had “narrowly escaped death at a notorious blackspot” on the A505, and that his father had a premonition of the tragedy. Picture: Royston Crow archive

But no, and two weeks later two Harpenden men were hurt in a crash with a Cambs woman, who fortunately was physically unscathed.

Just three years later a cherished six-month old baby girl died after being thrown from her parents’ car at Odsey, and a year after that a 62-year-old lady from Somerset died a mile up the road. What is even sadder than these awful tragedies is that these are just a snippet of the incidents I discovered.

An off-duty police officer died in a head on crash on the A505 in 1987. The car DC Bernard Whitby was driving with a policewoman passenger hit a Jaguar, with both travelling on the eastbound carriageway. The driver of the Jaguar was unhurt and his wife was treated for shock.

At the 1985 inquest of Newmarket man Luthfur Rahman, who died in a crash at Odsey, the coroner Dr John Dines condemned the road, calling it “dangerous”.

At the 1985 inquest of Newmarket man Luthfur Rahman, who died in a crash at Odsey, the coroner Dr John Dines condemned the road, calling it “dangerous”. Picture: Royston Crow archiveAt the 1985 inquest of Newmarket man Luthfur Rahman, who died in a crash at Odsey, the coroner Dr John Dines condemned the road, calling it “dangerous”. Picture: Royston Crow archive

He said: “You have to be very careful coming out of the side turns because the speed of the vehicles is usually up to 65-70mph. So even with a view towards Baldock of 280 yards, a car coming along fast isn’t going to take a very long to appear and then be at that junction.”

What is described as a “horrific crash” in 1986 saw and cars driven by gentlemen from Kelshall and Bournemouth collide when one attempted to cross the carriageway. Police appealed for witnesses, and there were calls for ‘blackspot signs’ to be placed along the road. It was as though this story could have been written now.

In 1987 the Crow reported on teenage motorcyclist Simon who had “narrowly escaped death at a notorious blackspot” and that his father had a premonition of the tragedy.

His 125cc bike had collided with a HGV and exploded into flames at the Odsey turn. His dad said he knew something had happened because he was 20 minutes late returning home to Royston from his motormechanics course at Hitchin College, so he went out to look for him and came across his charred bike. Fortunately Simon was alive, but had suffered significant injuries. There were so many more incidents like this where people involved had been terribly hurt.

An off-duty police officer died in a head on crash on the A505 in 1987. Picture: Royston Crow archiveAn off-duty police officer died in a head on crash on the A505 in 1987. Picture: Royston Crow archive

If we jump forward a few years, in 2005 a driver had to be cut free from his car after a collision with a double-decker bus and was taken to Addenbrooke’s Hospital with a collapsed lung. Four years later the Crow reported the tragic death of a 79-year-old lady from Letchworth when the car she was travelling in collided with a van at the Odsey turn.

In 1988 – 30 years ago – the A505 was number one in a poll by the Crow – and in places five and seven – for the top accident blackspots in North Herts and South Cambs. And comments regarding the poll accuse road chiefs of “indeplorable complacency”.

If we ran the same poll now, I don’t doubt the outcome would be the same.

Because we can’t look them up with a quick search, it’s easy to forget about the sheer number of these incidents. It shouldn’t be because they pre-date Google that they haven’t existed or do not matter, because they do.

If you support our call for change, please sign our petition to Herts County Council to make the A505 safer at change.org/p/hertfordshire-county-council-make-the-a505-safer-between-royston-and-baldock.

The Crow will be continuing its series of special reports on A505 dangers next week.

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