Council hits back over danger road

THE controversy over the high number of accidents on the A59 - dubbed one of Britain's most dangerous roads - has erupted again.

North Yorkshire County Council has responded to an article in the Sunday Times which branded the stretch of road between Skipton and Harrogate as "the most hazardous primary route in the nation".

There were 43 fatal and serious accidents in three years on the stretch, 10 such accidents just last year.

The article talks to victims of accidents on the stretch and their families and was based on a report from the European Road Assessment Programme (EuroRAP), run by the AA Motoring Trust.

The report ignored motorbike crashes and then took how busy the road is, dividing the number of deaths and serious injuries in three years by the number of journeys back and forth.

It found the A59 between Harrogate and Skipton to be the most hazardous, and claimed it would cost 3m of road-safety measures to reduce the number of accidents on it to the national average.

It says the road is full of hidden dips, dangerous junctions with poor signage and a lack of safety measures, concluding that much more could be done to make the road less dangerous and save lives.

The report claimed North Yorkshire County Council did not respond to a request for a comment, but this week the council issued a detailed response to the article, claiming it is taking steps to reduce accidents and deaths on the road. "The number of accidents occurring on that section of the A59 is still unacceptably high," said a council statment, adding that last year's total was the lowest since 1997.

The statement said the county council had installed four safety schemes on the A59 since 1999, claiming this had led to a reduction in accidents, but said it was "disappointing" that they had not moved the road out of EuroRAP's highest risk category.

More than 300,000 of improvement schemes are planned at White Wall junction, near Kettlesing, Constable Ridge, near Menwith Hill, and Chain Bar Lane, half a mile from The Travelers' Rest pub, from 2005. There is also a 'right turn lane' scheme at Halton East, near Skipton, costing 75,000 and a 169,000 one at Rawdon Lane/Burley Bank crossroads planned to begin the same year, as well as a study into accidents on Saltergate Hill, near Rawdon, and Beamsley Hill, near the Bolton Bridge roundabout.

"The Sunday Times article recognises that improvements have been made to the three lane section of the A59 near Halton East but a number of other comments must be clarified.

"Figures for the end of 2003 show that annual fatal and serious casualties in the county have reduced from an average of 1,037 between 1994 to 1998 to 745, a reduction of 28 per cent.

"The Council's local safety scheme programme has contributed towards the reduction of casualties and decisions about schemes to be included in the programme are based on the number of injury accidents involving all road users."