MP backs villagers’ calls for A66 safety improvements

Richmond MP Rishi Sunak and North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan are seeking safety improvements to the two-mile stretch of single carriageway near Ravensworth. 

It follows a long-running campaign by Ravensworth villagers. The parish council and a dedicated A66 Action Group want junction improvements and a speed restriction because of the number of accidents, some of which have been fatal. 

The Government has announced that the A66 will be upgraded to dual carriageway along its entire length between Scotch Corner and Penrith but work is not likely to start until after 2020. 

Mr Sunak and Mrs Mulligan want to bring representatives of Highways England, which is responsible for the vital east-west trunk road, and the police together in Ravensworth to review all the options – including a reduced speed limit. 

Both have written to Highways England expressing their concerns about the road after meetings with residents and a recent spate of serious accidents. 

Mr Sunak said the parish council and the action group had compiled an impressive dossier of information about the stretch of road which showed that it was carrying almost 16,000 vehicles per day and that the length between the West Layton turn-off and the New Lane junction which includes the entrance to the Fox Hall Inn had a poor accident record. 

He added that following his intervention last year, Highways England had made some welcome improvements to signage and reflective marker posts but given the continuing rate of accidents, these had not solved the problem. 

“Having met the parish council and action group and travelled along the stretch of road with them on a busy Friday afternoon, it is clear more needs to be done to make the A66 safer at this point in the short term,” he said. 

“Less than 24 hours after my visit the road was closed for 11 hours after an HGV overturned and earlier this month a six-vehicle pile up closed the road again for an extended period. 

“Many villagers now go to some length to avoid the New Lane junction altogether and I understand their fears given the speed and nature of the traffic thundering along this narrow stretch of road.” 

Mr Sunak said that Highways England had previously rejected calls for a reduction in the current 60mph limit as it did not meet the agency criteria but he would urge them to think again. 

“Accidents, some of them fatal, continue to plague this stretch of road and the layout of the junction, the undulating topography of the road and the speed of vehicles all contribute to that,” he said.

“The villagers have made a persuasive case for speed restrictions, ideally enforced by speed cameras, to be part of a package of measures to improve safety pending the dualling of the road between 2020 and 2025.” 

Mrs Mulligan, who met residents late last year, said that in addition to being in contact with Highways England, she was working with the traffic bureau at North Yorkshire Police  and North Yorkshire County Council to understand the accident data held on the road and the plans in place to prevent further collisions. 

She has also asked the Chief Constable about the possibility of fixed speed cameras, in addition to the mobile safety camera vans that are already in use.    

She said: “I grew up in Ravensworth, so I understand very well that this section of the A66 is dangerous, and whilst I am encouraged that Highways England has a long term plan in place, something needs to be done in the short term before there are any more casualties. I am also not at all surprised that residents are avoiding the junction. 

“I will continue to work with Rishi and residents of Ravensworth to seek improvements from Highways England. In the meantime, I will work with the Chief Constable to help ensure the Safety Camera Vans are deployed to the stretch on a regular basis.”