WORRIED campaigners have labelled improvements to an accident blackspot as “totally ineffective” – and fear it is only a matter of time before there is another fatality.
Hartlepool councillor Paul Beck says moves by highways chiefs to stop motorists performing dangerous U-turns at the Sheraton Interchange, on the outskirts of town where a former driving instructor was killed, are not working.
Durham County Council has improved the slip-road onto the A179 and installed a new traffic island in a bid to prevent drivers turning left towards Wingate before performing u-turns back towards Hartlepool in order to beat the traffic.
Officials are also looking to introduce a prohibition of u-turn order over a 255ft stretch of the road.
But Coun Beck and members of a nearby residents’ group claim they have witnessed motorists simply driving further down the road before turning around and they are concerned about further deaths.
It comes after town man Colin Brown, 60, was killed at the spot in May. It is believed he was doing a u-turn when his Citroen C4 collided with a minibus full of passengers on the B1280 just yards from the Hart bypass.
County council officials say efforts to improve the safety were prompted by a series of accidents in the area and say they are in talks with the Highways Agency about long-term solutions.
Coun Beck, who represents the Hart ward, said: “I as ward councillor, and Richard Turner a member of our Bishop Cuthbert Residents’ Group, have noticed that the so-called improvements to the Hart flyover junction on the A179 are totally ineffective.
“We have both witnessed that cars are coming off the slip road turning left towards Wingate and then doing u-turns to come back to Hartlepool.
“It stems from the horrendous build-up of traffic going back from the junction onto the A19.
“It is only a matter of time before we see injuries or fatalities again on this stretch of road.”
Coun Beck, who has emailed Durham County Council with the concerns, added: “I realise that finances are stretched at this time, but again I say what price do we put on peoples lives?”
Mr Turner believes the queuing creates an unsafe environment for drivers and he too believes the improvements are ineffective.
In an email to the council, Mr Turner called for temporary traffic lights to be installed at the junction at busy times of the day and to make the approaches to the flyover into dual carriageways.
Dave Wafer, strategic traffic manager at Durham County Council, said: “The measures we have introduced are in response to an analysis of the accident history in this location.
“These measures are intended to provide a relatively quick way to address some of the issues but, as we have previously acknowledged, we are aware that there may be longer term solutions needed, which may involve a more substantial change to the junction.
“We are continuing discussions with the Highways Agency to look at other potential solutions.”
Just days after Mr Brown died and 11 bus passengers were injured, the Hartlepool Mail snapped many other drivers carrying out the same risky manoeuvre.
In the space of just an hour, our photographer witnessed at least a dozen motorists using the left-hand slip lane to come off the A19 northbound to beat queuing traffic in the right-hand lane for Hartlepool.
Drivers were pulling off the slip road as if travelling to Wingate, but just a few yards up the road make a u-turn to head towards Hartlepool.
In July, 85-year-old Joan Coulson, from Durham, was killed when the car she was a passenger in collided with a black Mitsubishi Warrior on the A179.
Then just days later a three-car smash happened near the A19 northbound turn off which saw a man taken to hospital with spinal injuries.