DANGEROUS LAMPPOSTS have been hurriedly removed from central London streets and from an exposed section of the M62 motorway in Greater Manchester after gale force winds swept across the UK this week.
The action in London followed a collapse on Monday which seriously injured a pedestrian in Cavendish Square, Westminster. The 35 year old woman remains critical with head and back injuries after being struck by the 10m lamppost.
Eye-witnesses said the entire octagonal-section post toppled without warning on to the footpath after shearing at the base.
Visual and non-destructive ultrasonic checks are now being carried out on all Westminster's 550 similar columns. So far eight lampposts have been cut back to a 1m height by engineers 'as a precaution'.
A spokesman for the London borough refused to speculate on the cause of the collapse or to confirm the reported signs of rusting near the break point. Both the council and Health & Safety Executive investigations will include metallurgical tests with engineers looking for fatigue cracks near the base.
It is understood that none of the ornate columns, erected mainly between 1959 and 1963, have had problems before and are of a different design to other steel columns found nationwide to have rusting and stress problems (NCE 3 October 1997).
Meanwhile, separate urgent checks under way on lamp standards on the M62 have so far resulted in the removal of 13, four year old steel posts after they were seen to sway dangerously in high winds.
The 12m high double-headed steel columns are also of a design not known to have had previous problems. A Highways Agency spokesman said checks were confined to the 300 similar columns in the area with no plans to extend investigations wider.
Engineers refused to reveal the structural condition of columns removed but Colin Nelson, divisional director of consultant Parkman, maintenance agent for this area, said: 'There have been no failures but visual evidence, including excessive swaying, led us to a risk assessment that suggested we should take them down.'