FENLAND: Launch of new campaign to make our roads safer

PUBLISHED: 15:53 22 March 2008 | UPDATED: 08:23 02 June 2010

BY John Elworthy A CLOSE friend of the Fenland family devastated by the loss of their only daughter in a tragic river drowning is today appealing to Cambs Times readers to back a new safety campaign. Graham Chappel is behind the newly launched Charlotte

BY John Elworthy

A CLOSE friend of the Fenland family devastated by the loss of their only daughter in a tragic river drowning is today appealing to Cambs Times readers to back a new safety campaign.

Graham Chappel is behind the newly launched 'Charlotte's Way Fenland Road Safety Campaign' named after the nine year-old Christchurch girl who drowned in the icy waters of the Sixteen Foot Drain near Bedlam Bridge.

Mr Chappel is preparing to launch a website highlighting the dangers of Fenland roads and rivers and calling for urgent action to consider safety barriers alongside many of the area's rivers.

"Charlotte would have been celebrating her 10th birthday on March 14- she had everything to live for, and meant everything in the world to her family," said Mr Chappel.

He is busy researching past river tragedies in the Fens and looking to other areas- particularly Lincolnshire- where barriers have been installed on a stretch of road.

Mr Chappel is also questioning whether sufficient publicity has been given to improve drivers' safety in Fenland.

His website will describe the recent death of Charlotte as "a local tragedy- a national disgrace" and has questioned why a 50 mile per hour speed limit introduced on the Sixteen Foot Road 15 years "was quickly dropped on the grounds of unenforceability."

His latter point is one which Councillor Mac McGuire, chairman of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Road Safety Partnership, has promised to consider.

"We are currently looking at speed limits throughout the county and if we had a 50 mile per hour limit at one time and the police were unable to enforce it, that seems a strange reason to remove it."

Cllr McGuire visited the Cambs Times offices on Wednesday, with Mark Kemp, director of highways and access for the county council.

Cllr McGuire said: "I know the Sixteen Foot well, and I understand the concerns of Fenland roads. We are always concerned about any safety aspect, and we are most certainly not ignoring it."

He said safety cameras on the Forty Foot would soon help and the council was looking at places as far afield as Florida and the Netherlands which experienced similar issues.

"We are committed to road safety throughout the county, including Fenland, and we recognise the pecularity of Fenland roads." He hoped to meet Mr Chappel and promised a "meaningful dialogue" to discuss what could be done.

Mr Kemp said council officers spoke regularly with officers from neighbouring counties- including Lincolnshire. He said the barrier installed in Lincolnshire came about following the re-construction of a river bank and a concrete beam was put into the bank and a safety fence attached. The cost was some £500,000 "but they have the approach to us as to whether it is practical in engineering terms to put a safety barrier along deep drains. "

He said it was technically possibly to put a safety fence along the Forty Foot "but you would need eight metre piles and then you would need to put a concrete beam across the top and secure a fence to the beam and re construct the bank. You are talking about significant amounts of money- millions- to do so."

Mr Kemp added that the council remained committed to educating drivers to drive according to conditions.

"People should be driving carefully," he said. "If you go into the water it will be difficult to get out"

GET IN TOUCH:

Do you want to support the Charlotte's Way campaign? Have you a past experience of Fenland roads that you think might support the call for action? Has your family been affected by a similar tragedy or near miss? Would you like to work with the campaign organisers?

To get in touch drop them an email. Their address is: charlottesway@btinternet.com.

Or email your views to editor@cambs-times.co.uk


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