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Safety reaches peak condition

HIGHWAY MANAGEMENT - SAFETY: Accident reduction trials in Derbyshire are demonstrating the merits of a route management approach to safety, says Jon Masters.

The Highways Agency is claiming a huge 40% reduction in accidents in the first year of its A52/A523 accident reduction trials (ART). The project, which also covers the A6, has been developed as a route management strategy with extensive involvement of road user groups, emergency services and local authorities.

The results top the Agency's target of a one third reduction in accidents, and similar safety enhancements are likely to spread out to other areas of the trunk road network.

The A6 between Derby and Chapel-en-le-Frith and the A52/A523 between Derby and Leek in Staffordshire are looked after by the Area 14 Super Agency. Managing agent is Scott Wilson with Carillion holding the term maintenance contract.

The A6 and A52/A523 routes were chosen for the ART trial early in 1998 because at the time reported accidents were above the national average. 'Inconsistent speed limits were causing problems, together with poor visibility of road signs and markings, ' says Scott Wilson traffic manager Kevin Smith. 'Part of each route had unlit carriageway and unrestricted sections broken up by 30mph speed limits through towns and villages.'

The preliminary safety improvements scheme smoothed out traffic flow and improved signage. A 50mph speed limit was proposed for all but a few dual carriageway sections with buffer zones restricted to 40mph leading in and out of the 30mph limits through built up areas.

'Part of the problem was that drivers were unaware they were driving through a residential area due to tight bends and general lack of street lighting along these Peak District routes, ' says Smith.

Other safety improvements proposed by the preliminary designs included high visibility road markings and coloured surfacing to alert drivers to the need for care in Rowsley and Matlock. Speed cameras were considered for both routes but, according to Smith, Derbyshire's police force could not fund the administration. However the county is to be included in the government's impending camera trials.

A seven month consultation exercise followed, involving emergency services, local authorities, resident associations, the Peak Park Authority and pressure groups such as Sustrans.

'The consultation process made us very aware of particular concerns and helped us develop the plans, ' says Scott Wilson project engineer Mark Humpage. 'These routes are popular with competitive cyclists, for instance, who wanted less raised lining, and the emergency services did not want any humps or deflections in the carriageway, which ruled out vertical traffic calming measures.'

Humpage says resident groups and parish councils were consulted over the colour of surfacing laid in Rowsley and Matlock. The original proposal to use a shade of red was rejected in favour of a buff colour to reflect the local stone.

'Delineation for safety awareness was the primary reason for use of coloured surfacing, ' says Humpage.

Continuous feedback has also led to some changes in the safety measures. The 40mph restriction at Ambergate on the A6 proved too difficult to enforce so it has been reduced to 30mph.

There were attempts to provide a 1m cycle lane by moving edgelines away from kerbs. But this caused problems with gullies and debris, so edgelines have been replaced as close to the kerb as possible to provide maximum road width.

Around £2M has been spent on the 100km of ART trials in Derbyshire. Full results have not been collected from the A6 due to foot and mouth restrictions, but figures from the A52/A523 route show a 44% reduction in accidents.

'We are looking for between 20% and 30% so the results so far are very good and we have had a positive response from residents and road users, ' says Highways Agency Area 14 manager Steve Forgham.

'The Agency is looking at similar route management strategies and this may well be the way we develop safety on the network in future, with particular route problems and types of accidents identified.'

The next scheme, for the A523 up to Manchester, will start later this year.

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