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Link Road: urgent action needed
Last year I described the North Devon Link Road as being “not fit for purpose”. Sadly, this is now being proved correct. Last Saturday, less than 12 hours apart, there were two serious accidents near South Molton. Tragically two people were killed and several others injured. My first thoughts are with the families of those affected, and the emergency services who attended. The A361 was closed for some time afterwards; I was at Bish Mill several hours after the second accident, and could see the long tailbacks from there.
It’s too early to jump to conclusions about the causes of either of these accidents. However it’s clear that the time has come for action. We need urgent safety improvements in the wake of these accidents. In the long run, it’s my ambition to see the A361 become a proper dual carriageway from Tiverton to Barnstaple. The current layout, with occasional overtaking lanes which then merge into one, seems to me to be fundamentally unsafe. On Tuesday I talked about this idea in an interview on The Voice FM. What was supposed to be a five minute spot turned into an hour’s phone-in, as many listeners phoned up in support.
Improvements to the road would not only make it safer, but would provide a welcome boost to North Devon’s economy and its tourist industry. But for the moment, the tragic loss of life at the weekend means we must have some action. I will be writing to Devon County Council, who have had responsibility for this road since it was ‘de-trunked’ in 2002. I will also write to the Transport Secretary, because serious thought now needs to be given to providing substantial investment at a national level.
It is just not good enough that so little has been done in the last few years, and last weekend’s awful events shows that we need to put that right.
This week seems to have been dominated by traffic issues, because the roads in and around Barnstaple have also been on the agenda. Town councillor Simon Harvey met me again to discuss the situation; the photo shows us in The Strand discussing the traffic arrangements there. Following our meeting and a number of other representations, I decided to write to the Leader of Devon County Council, Cllr John Hart. Here is the full text of my letter.
I am writing regarding the road network and traffic problems in and around Barnstaple, concerns about which have been raised with me by a number of local residents and Town Councillors.
As I write, the roadworks at the Roundswell roundabout are due to finish. This welcome project will, it is hoped, ease traffic congestion on that part of the ‘bypass’. The ongoing works seem to have caused significant increases in traffic seeking to avoid Roundswell by using the A361 and Bickington Road instead, leading to considerable delays at peak times. Can I ask what monitoring work will now be undertaken to assure that the completed work at the roundabout does indeed ease the flow of traffic in the area?
Additionally, there are ongoing concerns about the traffic arrangements in the centre of Barnstaple, particularly with regard to the Taw Vale/Belle Meadow/ Strand areas. Some residents feel there needs to be a comprehensive review of signage, restrictions and traffic flow in this area, and I wonder whether the Council has any plans in this regard?
Overall, residents and town councillors have expressed to me the concern that Barnstaple is being ‘forgotten’ by the Highways planners in Exeter. I am told that a major review of the town’s traffic arrangements was promised once the new bridge and town centre restrictions had been thoroughly tested. It would seem that adequate time has now passed, so I would be grateful if you could let me know what next steps are now being planned.
Thank you for your help.
I would be interested to know your thoughts about both of these issues. There is no instant solution to either the Link Road or the situation in Barnstaple, and of course money is tight, but I firmly believe we must be ambitious and try to get some improvements. I will keep pushing towards this goal.
Keep in touch
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Until next week......
Conservative Parliamentary Candidate