MP and county councillor react to plans as next steps for A505 revealed
- Credit: Archant
Reaction has been coming in after the meeting of Herts county councillors, the North East Herts MP and more, to discuss plans to improve safety on the A505 between Royston and Baldock.
Friday's meeting was the latest development in the saga involving the blighted stretch - with the council being repeatedly called upon to make the layout of the road safer by residents, campaigners, MP Sir Oliver Heald, councillors and the Royston Crow.
At the meeting it was said that work to improve the Litlington junction could begin in April 2020.
There are currently no definite plans to make changes to the other junctions, but proposals were discussed.
Sir Oliver Heald said: "It was a constructive meeting and I was pleased to hear that the works at McDonald's have been completed and the works at the Litlington turning are scheduled for next year.
"It was also clear that Hertfordshire Highways has prepared a plan for each junction with several options.
"I was shown the preferred option for each junction, which involved remodelling and reducing the number of right turns out of side junctions.
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"I understand that these will be implemented over the next few years."
It was said in the meeting that on average one vehicle a day turns down the wrong side of the road from Odsey.
Sir Oliver continued: "I pointed out the urgency of tackling the Odsey turning and officials made clear their concern that there are still motorists who turn from Station Road into the eastbound lane of the A505.
"It is shocking that this is a regular occurrence and officials have set up a programme to identify the vehicles involved, find out why this behaviour is happening and to address it as a matter of urgency.
"Previously, improved signage has been put in place including solar power for lighting, but it has still not solved the problem completely.
"It is clear that many people simply drive too fast on the A505, particularly between Slip End and Odsey.
"Herts Highways will be conducting a speed survey and undertaking consultations with police about reducing the speed limit in that section.
"I have also suggested that a public information campaign to persuade drivers to take more care is called for.
"Although I am pleased that this was a constructive meeting, I did make it clear that I will continue use to press for urgent action to remodel the Odsey junction, reduce speeds and to stop drivers in the wrong carriageway.
"I believe that Herts Highways officials understand the serious concerns, particularly about drivers on the wrong side of the road."
Councillor Steve Jarvis, who represents Royston West and Rural on Herts County Council and has been pushing for changes on the A505, said:
"There are now a set of 'prefered options' which involve preventing right turns into the side roads as before, but with a new turn back facility for the people who want to turn towards Baldock from the Ashwell station turning.
"In my view this is not as good as a roundabout, but the cost is much less so we are much more likely to actually get something done.
"The less good news is that at present there are no dates for the other changes - besides Litlington - but the cost of what is now proposed for the Ashwell station turning means that there is a much better chance of getting it done before too much longer.
"In the meantime there is to be an investigation of the potential for lowering the speed limit past the Ashwell station junction to 60mph. This will involve measuring the actual traffic speeds and then the 'speed management group', which consists of safety engineers and the police, considering the results."
Regarding the wrong-way driver statistic, Councillor Jarvis said: "It is horrifying, nobody would have suspected the figure was quite so high.
"There have already been several attempts to prevent this by changing signs, but clearly more needs to be done. It's good that this is now recognised. Once they have decided what will be effective it should be fairly done quickly."
He added: "It is disappointing there's no plan to do anything about any of the other junctions.
"Litlington is the one where there are most accidents, everyone agrees the next most important is Odsey.
"We need to find a way to get that one done as soon as possible. It would be nice if there was still a plan to fund a roundabout, but for that they would have to find £3 million.
"All the public concern has meant that we have got three steps forward, and we need to keep up the pressure to make the next steps happen."
Councillor Phil Bibby, cabinet member for highways and environment at Herts County Council, said: "We have been actively addressing safety concerns on the A505 between Royston and Baldock following a number of high-profile incidents.
"We have carried out localised improvements over several years including vegetation clearance and improvements to road signs. Works on improving safety at the Baldock Road roundabout has been completed this year and we hope to start work on improving the Litlington junction from April 2020.
"We have seen a reduction in reported incidents over the last five years on the A505, we know that there are concerns about driver behaviour and to understand this better we will be liaising with Hertfordshire Constabulary and intend to carry out surveys to help identify these behaviours.
"We have commissioned a comprehensive report on measures that can be employed to mitigate the risk to users of the A505 and this report has now been completed. It suggests a number of options with regards to banning right-turn movements and improving slip roads whilst recognising some key access points need to be retained."
A Herts police spokeswoman has confirmed a traffic management team will be supporting the county council's road safety unit as they carry out an on-site survey.