Thursday, March 25, 2010

Why the A21 Must Be Fully Dualled


Anyone who knows the A21 between Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells will know what a treacherous road it is. It's the bit where the dual carriageway goes down to a single lane each way, near Pembury (where we live). There's a steep stretch of hill with a bend half way up.

About half an hour ago, we were driving up Castle Hill on our way home from London. I was asleep in the passenger seat, when I awoke with a jolt as the car braked sharply. Ahead of is a 4 x 4 was ploughing straight into the front of the car in front of us, a Vauxhall Cavalier. Luckily for us, we were about 20 yards behing and managed to stop before we ploughed into the back of the Cavalier. There was glass and debris all over the road. A man got out of the Cavalier, rubbing his leg and grimacing in pain.

As John got out of the car to check that people were OK, I dialled 999. As it turned out - and completely coincidentally - that there was a police car right behind us. I had just got through to the emergency number when it put on its flashing lights.

Why do I bother mentioning this? Mainly because it is yet another example of a very bad accident on a road which has experienced many fatalities over the last few years. Greg Clark has been trying to get the Department of Transport to bring forward plans to dual this mile long stretch of the A21 which were first announced back in 2003.

We're sitting here watching the News at Ten thanking our lucky stars it wasn't worse. But I guarantee there will be more serious accidents on this piece of road this year - probably fatal ones.

36 comments:

Timothy said...

It's worse than that Iain. The towns of Hastings and Bexhill further down the road are surely the poorest on the South coast because of their dreadful road communications.
We suffer from the same problems down here in the Southwest because nothing has been done about the A303 for just as long.
Long term planning is not a feature of politics.

jojoko said...

Having spent 10 yrs. fighting an unncessary road scheme, I learned a lot. Central government hands down the rules on where and when dual carriageways can be built. There has to be a minimum amount of traffic, etc., blah, blah, blah. Common sense does not come into it. One would think after numerous deaths, a traffic calming plan would be in order but it seems there is also a minimum number of deaths and serious injuries that have to occur before that is allowed. The whole process is bound up in red tape and bureacracy.

Tusker said...

Agree absolutely! And as a big side effect it will bring economic development to the whole area... Love the blog BTW

Joe Public said...

Should all roads with a bad accident record be dualled, or just the ones near where you live?

Could it be that one of the drivers involved wasn't driving with due care & attention, or, within the speed limit?

tory boys never grow up said...

There may be many reasons why the A21 should be dualled but I'm not sure this one of them. There is little excuse for the 4X4 driving into the back of another car - it should have maintained a proper stopping distance for its speed - dual carriageways do not improve drivers' ability in this regard.

The only accident blackspot on the DOT maps on the A21 is on the dual carriageway before Castle Hill!

Londonerr said...

I couldn't agree more, Iain. Tell that to the anti road building lobby. Here again we have the case where a popular (anti car) narrative has overtaken reason and sold our great country short.

Which political party has the will to build much needed roads?

(I hope you're not too shook up)

Bill Quango MP said...

It is a bad bit of road but there are many worse ones. The Taunton bypass is a killer. The Brighton to Eastbourne goes 3-2-1 lane. All over the place.

BlueTechy said...

As a resident just outside East Grinstead, I think you should expand this to all routes between the M23/A23 and the M20, this whole region has been sidestepped in much need infrastructure changes even though the population has increased and the Government keeps piling more people into the area.

Cork said...

I know that piece of road well. It should have been turned into a dual carriageway the whole way down to Hastings 30 years or more ago. I do so hope the very dangerous stretch you are talking about is dealt with urgently but unlike the A43 from the M40 to Northampton there is no Labour party supporter with deep pockets (such as Bernie Ecclestone) who is able to persuade the incorruptible Prime Minister (then Tony Blair now Gordon Brown) to fast track the upgrade. Money for the Labour party means more than lives.

Jeff999 said...

Try the A1 from Newcastle to Scotland, at night it is literally a tunnel of death

Johnny Norfolk said...

ButIain its a Tory area so you will never get anything out of labour.

longrun2 said...

toryboysnevergrowup demonstrates his disdain for reality in his attacks on Conservatives.
Iain said the 4x4 drove into the front of a Vauxhall Cavalier, to which TBNGU says "There is little excuse for the 4X4 driving into the back of another car"
ID argues this would not have happened if the A21 was a dual carriageway - indisputable to anyone who read his post TBNGU says "There may be many reasons why the A21 should be dualled but I'm not sure this one of them" ..." dual carriageways do not improve drivers' ability in this regard".
My teenage son says I mustn't call anyone a troll or stupid or ... May I ask them to read the post?

Alister said...

You think you've been waiting? Aberdeen has been waiting since 1947 for it's bypass, not to mention that we don't have electrified rail. Oh, and which flights do BA cancel?
You wouldn't think we were the oil capital of Europe.
I'll also mention the A96 & A9 both killers - short dual sections with long single carriageway. Certain slow traffic speeds up when it reaches the dual sections meaning people can't overtake and get impatient.

Train to Edinburgh (120 miles) 3 hours, Edinburgh to London (400 miles) 4 hours!
By car to London (11 hours)

Magical_Mist said...

how about we abandon the automobile completely and all use jetpacks instead?

They would have to be breath activated though to prevent usage whilst drunk though.
Although if you're clever you could make some sort of breathing device that could blow into it for you and active it.

Gareth said...

Can't have a post about the roads without deploying Google Streetview Iain. It is the 21st Century afterall.

Was it on this bit?

I don't know the road and can only go on what Google shows. If the accident occurred where there are solid white lines for both directions are there shouldn't have been any overtaking to cause a head-on. If it was at the bend with the car on the wrong side of the road being the one coming down the hill (towards Tonbridge) I'll hazard a guess they were going too quick for the bend. Does that sound about right?

Cardinal Richelieu's mole said...

So "there was a police car right behind us"! Just as with the Vodafone billing/contract hassles, you get privileged treatment because you are a famous blogger and pass it off as a normal event!

javelin said...

Yes it's death trap ... but it's a Tory Death trap, Iain.


You just have to "sicken-up" to understand Gordon Brown.

JamesW said...

@Alister

Amen about the train. It would be quite a bit quicker if the InterCity only stopped at cities past Edinburgh. ie Dundee and Aberdeen. Instead it acts as a local train stopping all over Fife and the NE-coast. Not sure about the driving time though. I've done Birmingham to Aberdeen in 6 hours. London should only add a couple to that...

Clive said...

You can add the A616 Stocksbridge bypass, A628 Woodhead route and the A57 at Mottram to the list. Together they form a major transpennine route from Sheffield to Manchester, used by significant volumes of traffic. The poor sods of Mottram, Tintwhistle and Hollingworth have been waiting decades for a bypass. The A616-A628 used to rate as one of the 10 most dangerous roads in Britain, but now is smothered - literally - with speed cameras.

I believe it was a Conservative government that closed the Woodhead rail route (complete with new tunnel) then scrapped the proposed M67 Sheffield-Manchester motorway. Not that subsequent Governments have done anything to improve the route.

Barnacle Bill said...

For the amount of taxes NuLabor have milked from the motoring community all A roads in this country should be dual carriageways!
It just a pity more MPs did not have to use our roads.

Nicholas J. Rogers said...

I remember when Archie Norman was trying to get something done about this before the 2001 election! Nearly ten years later and the problem still hasn't been fixed.

James said...

Iain,

Nasty bit of road.

Hasn't a policeman just been charged with causing death by dangerous driving after he crashed his unmarked car into a woman's car on that stretch? Fatalities are already happening.

But the road goes through a wood, if we're talking about the same stretch. I bet the wood is packed with a rare and very small species of slug which will prevent any widening for years to come...

steve said...

Seems the phrase " if it saves just one life", (a la our speed camera raison d'etre) does not apply here.

I travel M23,M25 onto M26 everyday and i'm amazed at the number of filter lanes on the left which drivers leave it to the last minute to get into.

The prime example is that old Channel 4 advert with the motorway. The silver merc drive cutting across at the last minute to go left onto a slip road, watch out for it. Any visitor watching it would think "what a bunch of inbred bozos".

Drivers need educating in showing courtesy and consideration to other road users. Mr Idiotbritain would not put with someone pushing in in a post office queue. how's the roads any different?

Dont get me started on middle lane drivers.

Education should include keep left, pay it forward when someone is indicating in good time to come out ie, let them out!, and when overtaking, get past quick enough so the other car doesn't have to slow down.

This would of course make the roads clearer, safer to drive on which is not in the govern,emt anti driving interests.

DespairingLiberal said...

You can never build enough roads to solve basic driver inattention and stupidity. It's part of the anarchy of the roads and a Darwinian process that gradually will remove all the more useless drivers. Just in time for the oil to run out and those well-honed driver reflexes to become an evolutionary cul-de-sac!

Unsworth said...

@ toryboys

It's clear that you are desperate to find an argument in anything posted here. Indeed your latest comment is graphic confirmation - if it were needed - of your profound lack of literacy skills. No doubt you are another State Education Victim. Apply for remedial skills lessons now - they are free.

Iain says: "a 4 x 4 was ploughing straight into the front of the car in front of us"

You say: "There is little excuse for the 4X4 driving into the back of another car - it should have maintained a proper stopping distance for its speed - dual carriageways do not improve drivers' ability in this regard."

Front/back?

And you seriously think that the DOT maps showing accident blackspots are completely comprehensive? Yep, you probably do.

norman said...

@Alister
I lived in Aberdeen for a few years in 1980s. Shops in Union Street used to close at 5:30PM and I am told that it is the same case in 2010. The renting used to be as expensive as in London and it has not changed. Hotels used to be expensive and full and this has not changed. I agree with Aberdeen-Edinbugh train journey time, and also the flight cancellations. We left this city because it was so isolated from the rest of the country. The political parties strangely have not been interested in Aberdeen-Edinburgh train journeys. My fellow Aberdonians then thought that they had cars and why trains to Edinburgh. The thoughts are no different now. Aberdonians seem to be not worried about Aberdeen-Edinburgh trains.

Alister said...

@Norman
The big issue with Aberdeen Edinburgh train is if it was something sensible like 90 minutes or less it would mean the London Aberdeen journey would be circa 5 hours? Given the hassles of getting to airports round London and having to sit around due to increased security it might be easier and quicker to take the train

neilreddin said...

I know this stretch well also.

It's not just for safety that dualling should be considered. So often you know you're getting past TW because the traffic grinds to a halt at the bottleneck where the dualling ends - bad for the environment surely?

Maybe it might also relieve some of the traffic going through Southborough on the A26?

When I was at TW town hall recently I did notice a large plan had been put up proposing a dualling scheme - so it might not be so far off (though I didn't get to look closely at it).

norman said...

@Alister "The big issue with Aberdeen Edinburgh train is if it was something sensible like 90 minutes or less it would mean the London Aberdeen journey would be circa 5 hours?". I agree that this is an aberration in Britain when train connects two cities. I gave the example of closing times of shops in Union Street, because unless people start making noises through their MPS and MSPs nothing will happen. After 25 years of leaving Aberdeen I hear shops still close at 5:30PM.

John H said...

Is a horrendous stretch of road, and does need dualling. The problem is, every new dual carriageway makes remaining stretches of single carriageway appear more "anomalous", and gets drivers less accustomed to driving safely on fast single carriageways.

But if we dual every single carriageway where unsafe driving causes deaths, we'll end up concreting over the whole country: which is what those who don't just drive cars but think of themselves as part of the "motoring lobby" probably want.

No easy answer: but yes, that stretch of the A21 is one where dualling makes sense.

Philip said...

I lived in Tonbridge from 1970 till 1996 so know the road well. There have been numerous attempts to dual it, there are a number of reasons why they fail.

It is not a blackspot because it is usually a car park. Accidents don't happen in stationary traffic.

Then getting the land proved difficult. The area to the right of your picture on Castle Hill is, I think an SSSI. Go and listen to the nightingales in a few weeks.

To the left is Somerhill and when they owned it the D'Avigdor Goldsmid's were not keen on cars and lorries coming any closer to their magnificent house. Who can blame them.

JamesW said...

@JohnH
"But if we dual every single carriageway where unsafe driving causes deaths, we'll end up concreting over the whole country"

Dualling the trunk roads (the ones with green signs) would satisfy most concerns, and that would hardly result in the whole country sinking under concrete.

a1adam said...

As someone who lives near Tunbridge Wells, works in Hastings and socialises in London, I know the dreaded A21 very well indeed. Surely a good compromise at Castle Hill would be an uphill crawler-lane, like at the nearby A26 either side of Eridge station. This would keep two lanes of traffic flowing from the end of the dual carriageway at Tonbridge up towards Pembury, without having to go to all the expense and disruption of building a dual carriageway.

Anyone ever tried filling up at the Shell petrol station at the narrow stretch, then exiting to the north? Good luck:-)

And also, just past Pembury the road becomes really twisty on the way to Lamberhurst. The sudden bends and narrowing of the road really come as a shock after the long straight Pembury bypass.

Apologies to readers from elsewhere who must find my reply really boring!

Great website Iain. Funny how it's taken a local story to get me to comment for the first time after months lurking, but always find your blogs and comments interesting and entertaining.

Gareth said...

a1adam said: "And also, just past Pembury the road becomes really twisty on the way to Lamberhurst. The sudden bends and narrowing of the road really come as a shock after the long straight Pembury bypass."

Are there no road signs like the ones in the illustration, warning of sharp bends?

Dualling the road Iain describes would prevent head on collisions but what is the cause of the collisions in the first place? If it *was* as I guessed at earlier then driving too fast for the bend is as much a problem as the road itself may be.

Approaching the bend from the other side is a warning for the upcoming bend and also a warning that the roads can be slippy, presumably due to the mud, leaves and whatnot and that's before you consider what the weather is doing. Grippier tarmac could help reduce the risk of losing control.

trevorsden said...

Its your own fault Iain for not living in a Labour marginal. there you would not only get roads (dual carriagways at that) to nowhere but bridges as well.

It would be worse if you had been hurt - the hospital you would end up in would have been drained of funds for 13 years to pay for loadsamony being spent in places people like Ed Balls frequents.

trevorsden said...

"and also a warning that the roads can be slippy, presumably due to the mud, leaves and whatnot "

I think you see all the 'slippy road' signs that you do because sometimes when roads were resurfaced the spec for them left them very slippy soon after completion. They dried out over time but I believe there have been many csaes of unforseeable accidents.

More money for better specs wpould cure this but poor rpoad specs have been the bane of british roads for generations.

Currently following the winter frosts our roads are crumbling away before our very eyes. Appalling state.