Every month without fail horrendous central reservation cross-over stories are unfolding before our eyes. And all of them involve steel barrier employed as a safeguard between oncoming motorway and dual carriageway traffic. The sad truth is that steel may have once been a great cost effective method to help prevent cross over incidents, but the problem lies within the mission statement. It ‘helps’ but it does not ‘stop’.
This is precisely the reason why millions of pounds worth of investment and years of extensive research have gone into designing a structural barrier that will eliminate the chance of cross-over situations and contain vehicles upto 13.5 tonnes.
Last month saw yet another fatal cross-over incident occur near Durham when the driver of a stolen 4×4 being chased by the police crashed into a steel central reservation, flipped over and crashed on top of a Peugeot car on the opposite carriageway. The Peugeot driver, from Northumberland, was declared dead at the scene.
The 23 year old from Chester-le-street stole the 4×4 from his home town and was later spotted 20 miles away at Newton Aycliffe. The runaway vehicle was chased by a police patrol car and by the Durham police force helicopter. The stolen truck followed the A167 road before turning onto the A1(M) and heading north, where the cross over accident put a desperately tragic end to the terrifying chase. The incident resulted in the closure of a four mile stretch of the motorway, causing severe delays for motorists.
Another cross over accident took place in May when a popular Birmingham head-teacher died after a van carrying beer barrels careered across the steel central reservation of the M5 and smashed head-on into his Mitsubishi Colt. A further 18 drivers and passengers on the motorway were treated for minor injuries after the van’s cargo spilled on to the road. Head teacher, Daniel Slinn, head of Calshot Primary School in Great Barr, was travelling with his wife at the time of the accident who was treated in hospital for two days after suffering ligament damage to her hip in the crash. She has now questioned whether her family could have been spared the tragedy if the Highways Agency had replaced steel barriers in the middle of the motorway with concrete step barrier.
“We don’t know yet what part the crash barrier played, but we want to find out” she said. “My family certainly believes concrete barrier on the central reservation could have saved him”.
Shadow Transport Minister Robert Goodwill, MP for Scarborough and Whitby, has backed the Slinn family and said he was “absolutely convinced that concrete safety barriers saves lives”.
World renowned Professor of Structural Engineering, John Knapton believes strongly that there are many benefits to using concrete barriers instead of steel, even stating that employing concrete barriers on UK motorways is a ‘no-brainer’.
The benefits of using concrete barrier include:
• Concrete does not damage vehicles as much as steel.
• Concrete barriers rarely require repair after a crash. Currently, repairing barriers involves closing a road/lane for repairs to be carried out, with workers being put at risk on the road.
• They work equally well with heavier vehicles.
• Only one concrete barrier is needed in the central reservation to serve both sides of the road.
• There is no headlight dazzle through the barrier.
• They need less space as they don’t ‘deform’ like steel barriers.
Currently the majority of central reservations on major roads in England are installed with flexible steel safety barriers. This type of barrier was originally chosen for its containment of vehicles and minimum effect on vehicle occupants and in part has helped save lives. But modern technology and research demonstrates how concrete must take the reins and be fully integrated onto UK roads as a matter of urgency.
The facts, the statistics – the theory and the practice have proved that concrete barrier DOES save lives and the Highways Agency must utilise it to its full capacity today.