FAULTY traffic lights at a busy turnpike junction between the A419 and Thamesdown Drive are being blamed for a series of crashes and motorists are warning someone could be killed.
Motorists who raised the alarm with calls to Swindon Council and the Highways Agency yesterday said it was a miracle no one had died after five accidents in two days. The lights have been out of action for a week, despite functioning briefly on Tuesday.
On Saturday afternoon a woman had be cut out of an overturned car following a collision between two vehicles near the junction. Another motorist described the scene as “truly awful”. The woman, who had been inside a Ford KA, was taken to Great Western Hospital.
The road was blocked on Sunday evening after a second collision and another crash at the spot on Monday led to a driver being taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure.
Confusion had clouded who was responsible for the lights, with reports of the Highways Agency referring callers trying to report the fault to the council and vice versa.
Cathy Pike, 55, a finance administrator from Haydon End, said: “The lights have been out of action for a week and it is ridiculous.
“I phoned the Highways Agency and they said there was a dispute over who was responsible for the lights. They then said it was the responsibility of the council and there was a serious technical fault. It’s fortunate that in the week they have been off no one has suffered a serious injury. It is actually safer in the mornings because there is more traffic and everyone has to slow down.”
Rachel Williams contacted the Adver via email. She said: “I travel that way every day and for the last week I’ve risked my life trying to get onto the northbound side of the A419 whilst the traffic lights have been off.
“Obviously there is some problem with them that can’t be fixed but surely with a three-way junction a temporary set should be put up? Does someone really need to die before this happens? Somebody really needs to take this further before having several deaths on their conscience.”
Coun Vera Tomlinson (Con, St Andrews) called a meeting between Keith Williams, cabinet member for leisure and strategic transport, Wiltshire Police and highways officers from Swindon Council, which led to a decision to install temporary traffic lights at 5pm yesterday.
Coun Tomlinson said: “There have been five traffic accidents reported to me over the past two days. In my view that’s five too many and the Highways Agency seemed not to be able to get to grips with the problem so we brought in Swindon Borough Council’s highways department to find a solution. We have decided to install a temporary traffic light system and lots of signs indicating that drivers should curb their speed and approach the junction with care and caution. The priority is to keep the A419 clear and running smoothly and to make sure no more accidents occur.”
The faulty lights at the major intersection have left drivers having to negotiate the junction with other motorists approaching from different directions.
The Highways Agency said there was a “significant and complex” problem with the signals.
The Swindon North Neighbourhood Policing team also urged drivers to exercise extreme caution at the spot. Motorists left dozens of messages complaining about the situation on the team’s Facebook page yesterday after it used the website to publicise the warning.
Melanie Holland Tucker wrote: “I went past the accident on Saturday. It looked so truly awful that it really is a miracle no-one was killed.
“Yes, perhaps some bad driving is playing a part here (perhaps, I don’t know) but to me it is complete negligence to leave these junctions as they are.”
A spokeswoman for the Highways Agency said the road was the responsibility of Swindon Council as it was only in charge of motorways and major A roads. A police spokesman said: “While work continues to try and rectify the fault we are urging drivers to slow down, be mindful of the other vehicles on and approaching the junction, and to avoid this route if at all possible.”
A Swindon Borough Council spokesman said: “The lights are the responsibility of the Highways Agency and they are working hard to identify the cause of the fault.
“In the meantime, we are arranging for temporary traffic lights to be installed at the junction as soon as possible to provide traffic management until the problem has been resolved.”