Colney Heath longabout safety changes finally underway
- Credit: Archant
A Colney Heath councillor is celebrating the end of a long-running battle for safety improvements at a notorious accident blackspot.
District Cllr Chris Brazier has been campaigning for potentially life-saving changes to the ‘longabout’ on the A414 for more than a decade, and now something is finally being done.
Cllr Brazier said for motorists entering and exiting Smallford, Colney Heath Lane and Colney Heath High Street, the longabout has not only been dangerous but in some cases deadly.
Motorcyclist Neal Christian was killed on the road in March 2011 after his bike was struck by a Ford Fiesta which pulled out of the junction.
The longabout falls within a 50mph zone, but Cllr Brazier said in the wake of the fatality that it was “merely used as a chicane” and that “it’s not unusual for drivers to pass through the junction at speeds up to 80mph”.
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Prior to Mr Christian’s death, Hertfordshire Highways told Cllr Brazier improvements were not a priority due to the lack of fatalities.
In 2007 the junction was 143rd down the list of hazardous sites, despite numerous incidents, including a seven car smash when a woman veered off the road in 2014, a motorcyclist who suffered a broken leg after hitting a car in 2013, and two people being taken to hospital after a car was pushed onto the central reservation in 2012.
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In 2011 HCC said a safety scheme was planned for the A414 longabout which included putting traffic signals in at the junction with Smallford Lane.
This would help slow vehicles down and create gaps in the traffic to make it easier to access the A414 from Smallford Lane and Colney Heath.
This work was scheduled to take place in spring 2012, but nothing happened.
In 2014 the Colney Heath longabout was finally classified as a hazardous site after there were 20 injurious accidents reported between 2011 to 2013 – more than three times the qualifying threshold of six.
A county council report recommended a change to the road layout by putting traffic lights in the centre of the junction where the High Street meets the A414 and a triangle island in the High Street arm of the junction.
Temporary lights were trialled in March 2015, and found to be a viable solution as they would reduce the number of cars U-turning at the Colney Heath Lane end and make gaps in traffic more predictable for people turning into the road.
But in March 2017 residents were told HCC did not have money for the safety improvements, although would prioritise and address the issue for the financial year 2019-2020.
Over the years Cllr Brazier, who is a Liberal Democrat, has raised the issue with the police, MPs and Herts Highways, and he has reported his frustrations in the pages of the Herts Advertiser.
He said this week: “My endeavours have always come up against costs, opposition to slowing the traffic flowing between the Hatfield and London Colney roundabouts, so imagine my delight when through local residents doors came a letter!”
The letter he is referring to said: “The junction of the A414 North Orbital Road and High Street, Colney Heath is to have traffic signals installed. Improvements are to be made to the eastbound approach of the longabout. Work is programmed to commence August, 17, 2020 for 11 weeks.”
Cllr Brazier said: “We will have to wait until the completion of the works to monitor if there is any improvement in traffic behaviour.
“I feel that anything that slows the A414 traffic down and makes it easier for residents to enter and exit Colney Heath without risk is going to be an enhancement to everybody’s lives.
“I would also like to thank local residents, our county councillors and Colney Heath parish council, who supported me over many years.”
A spokesperson for Herts County Council said: “This was a particularly difficult scheme to design and we had to go through a number of iterations so we could provide the maximum benefit for pedestrians, cyclists and horse users as well as the local residents.”
From August 17 until October 22 there will be a single lane in both directions and High Street, London Colney will be closed at its junction with the A414.
Some overnight closures will occur throughout October. Diversion signage will be in place.