Make the A505 Safer: How councils reacted to ‘road of death’
PUBLISHED: 17:09 02 September 2018 | UPDATED: 17:09 02 September 2018
In the final instalment of the Crow’s series of special reports looking at the history of A505 dangers between Royston and Baldock, we focus on how the authorities have reacted to the crashes that have blighted the road for decades.
In 1981, proposals aimed at “reducing the toll of life and limb” on the A505 were discussed by officers from North Herts District Council and Herts County Council.
They included the installation of ‘stop’ signs instead of ‘give way’ signs at junctions, and ‘danger’ signs on the roads leading to the A505. Larger direction signs to the villages were put in place to give drivers more time to slow down, and a total ban on right hand turns along the stretch “by the introduction of a roundabout at a convenient spot, such as Slip End”.
HCC also carried out an investigation of traffic at the Odsey turn, but nothing substantial was done – and the issue continued crop up.
In July 1985, £105,000’s worth of improvement work was planned only for it to be scrapped by December 1985, when the Crow told how Councillor Leo Doyle “slammed the decision not to take further action to improve the town’s road of death”.
Councillor Doyle “attacked the decision” at a North Herts District Council meeting, where a report by Highways at Herts County Council – which said that sufficient work – “low-cost remedial measures” had been carried out – was discussed.
At a meeting two months earlier, Highways officers said the 50 accidents in the three years leading up to June 1985 did not jusify major works – despite the high number of accidents and deaths, which had generated lots of public interest.
Councillor Doyle said: “Some of the side turnings on to the road are still very dangerous and I’m still not happy about it.
“I think further work needs to be done to improve sight lines along the road by straightening out some of the bends.”
In July 1995, Guilden Morden Parish Council called for urgent action on the Odsey turning.
Clerk Richard Murfitt wrote a letter to HCC which said: “There have been a very large number of serious accidents at the junction and far too many fatal accidents, yet we seem to be in the same poisition as we were when we we received a letter from you in 1987.” The letter implied funds were not available.
The response from HCC was that £50,000 had been allocated to examine safety at four junctions, including Odsey.
Just as in the previous decade, measures being discussed were improvements to signs and road markings and general visibility at the junctions by the late-2000s.
In 2009, the same year Herts police released a statement saying 70mph was the most appropriate speed restriction for the stretch, a summit meeting was called to resolve the problems at Odsey by reducing the speed from 70mph to 50mph. Cambs county councillor Linda Oliver, who represented the Mordens on Cambs County Council, said: “The way the junction is now is very dangerous. The white lines are worn away, and you’ve got traffic going in two different directions that doesn’t know where to stop.”
The MP for North East Hertfordshire Sir Oliver Heald – who still holds his position – said he would back a 50mph speed limit, but this idea was thrown out in 2011 by Herts County Council. The authority had a review compiled by its speed management team and, unbelievably, one of the claims as a result of this report was that the A505 was a “great example of a 75mph road”.
The response from HCC – which did install safety cameras in 2007 – was that the national speed limit was appropriate.
Sir Oliver said: “I am a long-standing supporter of doing something to improve that junction and in particular reducing the speed limit.
“The claim that it’s a 75mph stretch is very surprising.”
Odsey Park resident Jeremy Fordham said that he was “astonished that elected representatives still maintain that speed is the problem at the junction” and that there needed to be an appropriate degree of patience when using the road.
And now? The road is being scrutinised once again after the feasibility study that concluded in March – with members working on a plan that remains unknown to the public.
All we know is that there may be a roundabout at Odsey, and this may happen in 2020/21, but actions speak louder than words – and, as the archives show, we’ve heard it all before.
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.