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Safety of A1 in Lincolnshire and Rutland questioned due to regular crashes near Stamford, Grantham and Newark

More than a hundred people have been injured in crashes on the A1 in recent years - but is enough being done to make it safer?

Each month dozens of crashes block the A1, causing closures and delays to motorists using the busy road.

Broken down vehicles, obstructions on the road or even slow moving traffic also lead to inconvenient long journey times.

But the worst outcomes are for the drivers who never get to return home.

There have been six fatal crashes on the 35-mile section of A1 between Stamford and Newark between January 2020 and June 2023.

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A further 33 incidents involved serious injuries and 107 resulted in minor injuries, as well as many more smaller prangs where drivers and passengers walked away unhurt.

A collision on the A1 near Great Ponton. Credit: R. S. Mortiss
A collision on the A1 near Great Ponton. Credit: R. S. Mortiss

Drivers are said to be avoiding the major road and businesses are spending hundreds of pounds on vehicle maintenance due to its poor condition, according to a survey of the A1 by Transport for the East Midlands (TfEM) last year.

“Safety is our highest priority,” said National Highways programme development manager Ian Doust.

“We constantly review all of our roads and continue to work alongside local stakeholders including the Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership to identify issues that require attention.”

Alicia Kearns, Conservative MP for Rutland, set up the A1 MPs working group in 2020 to push for improvements to make the road safer.

She said: “Our family school run sees us drive the A1 each day.

Rutland MP Alicia Kearns
Rutland MP Alicia Kearns

“We’re all so frustrated by the A1, and I’ve been doing all I can to make it safer for us all.”

The group had regular meetings with ministers and a debate in parliament which helped secure safety upgrades at five points along the A1 from the Tinwell junction to the Colsterworth interchange

While she is relieved to see the initial safety upgrades, Mrs Kearns believes more work still needs to be done.

She said: “Further urgent safety improvements must focus on the closure of substandard junctions, the provision of a concrete central barrier and better active traffic management.

“We must also focus on upgrading the safety technology along the A1, including CCTV and SOS telephones, helping those in danger to get the urgent help they need.

“The A1 is failing us as a critical artery for our country and a critical piece of national infrastructure.

“The road's capacity does not match the sheer volume of daily traffic, and there is only one meaningful long-term solution: to upgrade this section of the A1 to a three-lane motorway standard.

“This long-term infrastructure project is the only way we can significantly improve the safety of this road, and reduce the number of tragic fatal collisions.”

Gareth Davies
Gareth Davies

Gareth Davies became the Conservative MP for Grantham and Stamford on December 12, 2019, having said upgrades to the safety of the A1 in his constituency would be his priority, if he were elected.

However, when asked by LincsOnline he refused to directly answer the questions: ‘What did you aim to do to make the A1 safer and what have you managed to do to make the A1 safer?’

Mr Davies also failed to address what he personally thinks still needs to be done to make the A1 safer and whether there are any particular stretches or accident hotspot areas which need urgent improvement.

Instead Mr Davies said: “As the expert body responsible for managing strategic highways such as the A1, National Highways are rightfully able to take key decisions on the safety of our roads based on professional safety analysis and value for the taxpayer assessments.

He added: “Since I was elected, I have therefore engaged relentlessly with National Highways to relay local concerns and scrutinise the rationale for their decisions and ongoing work.

“As a vital arterial road for many in our area, I have made residents' concerns about the safety of our stretch of the A1 clear to National Highways.”

Since 2019, £4.3 million has been allocated for upgrades to the section between Grantham and Stamford, which Mr Davies says should ‘ensure safety and reliability for years to come’.

Coun David Bellamy, who represents Isaac Newton ward on South Kesteven District Council, stood by the A1
Coun David Bellamy, who represents Isaac Newton ward on South Kesteven District Council, stood by the A1

The words ‘slow’ could be painted onto the road between Little Ponton and Tickencote as part of planned upgrades by National Highways this year.

The improvements also include changes to existing signs, new warning signs, the installation of road studs at unilluminated locations and junctions, and resurfacing.

A similar scheme has been developed for the A1 further north, between Barrowby and Elkesley, and is on the list of potential schemes for the next road investment period between 2025 to 2030.

“National Highways has stated that this funding means we have received one of the highest levels of funding per mile of anywhere in the entire East Midlands region,” he added.

“While I pressed strongly for this funding, decisions on upgrades are rightly taken by the National Highways.”

A collision on the A1 at Colsterworth brought traffic to a standstill. Photo: R. S. Mortiss
A collision on the A1 at Colsterworth brought traffic to a standstill. Photo: R. S. Mortiss

Mr Davies has asked for the opinions of 25,000 local residents about the A1 and gathered views which he says are invaluable.

He last month met with National Highways to raise the responses he received, which highlighted crossovers and short slip roads as two of the main concerns.

“[National Highways] has outlined that closing crossovers would require an extensive consultation and could mean that agricultural vehicles spend longer on the A1, increasing congestion and potentially creating other issues for the road,” he said.

“As a constituency MP, and a regular user of the A1 myself, I continue to discuss our stretch of this road with National Highways at every opportunity, and push for solutions to address residents' concerns wherever possible.”

Newark MP Robert Jenrick (Con) also declined to directly answer the questions put to him by LincsOnline.

Instead he said: “Improving the safety and efficiency of our roads is a key issue.

A collision on the A1 at Colsterworth brought traffic to a standstill. Photo: R. S. Mortiss
A collision on the A1 at Colsterworth brought traffic to a standstill. Photo: R. S. Mortiss

“As a frequent user of the A1, I am very aware of the urgent need for significant improvements along this route.

“I was pleased to endorse the updated strategic proposal from Midlands Connect for the A46 recently. This plan addresses the chronic 'bottleneck' issue from Farndon to the A1 and A17 interchange, aiming to reduce congestion, lower pollution, and enhance safety.”

Midlands Connect, which examines transport projects across the region, says the A46 bypass is not performing at a standard that meets current and future needs and the £400m to £500m improvement scheme was imperative.

If delivered, Midlands Connect forecast a 30 per cent reduction in journey times for traffic using the improved section.

Swati Mittal, integrated transport programme lead at Midlands Connect, said: “We know there is significant support in the area for vital improvements to reduce collisions and make the road safer, including the A1/A46 junction at Newark which is a current scheme to be funded by Government, which will contribute to the improvement in safety of the road network in this area.”

Swati indeed: “The A1 is a key artery in the national road network, and is the longest numbered road in the UK connecting London to Edinburgh.

“When one or both carriageways are closed as a result of a crash or other incidents, the knock on delays have a big impact.”

Residents of several villages near the A1 often bear the brunt of safety problems.

Following a crash, drivers - including those behind the wheel of lorries - seek ways to escape the tailbacks, and this means taking unmarked diversions through minor roads.

Stretton resident Kevin Hawkes last year staged a spontaneous solo protest by standing in the middle of the Rookery Lane slip road, blocking lorries coming from the A1 accessing the restricted village.

The exit is just off the A1 southbound and displays signs for the 7.5 tonne weight limit and that it is for village access only rather than through traffic.

He says as soon as the road becomes blocked cars will shoot into the village to avoid the disruption.

Earlier this month his four-year-old labradoodle Barney was clipped by a lorry coming off the A1.

“I have been here for 30 years and the A1 has definitely become worse,” he said.

North Witham resident and South Kesteven District councillor, David Bellamy, is also keen to see changes.

He believes it’s a 1960s road with modern day traffic, and has not benefited from the same improvements other stretches have, labelling Lincolnshire as ‘the forgotten county’.

“I’m sure our local MPs have also done their best trying to raise the issue but unfortunately Lincolnshire never seems to be top of the government's spending priorities, and certainly the local plans for development over the next 30 years could do with major investment in the A1,” he said.

“I've given up on the idea of mitigating the current situation with half measures and come to the conclusion that there are so many problems on this particular stretch of the A1 that a major upgrade is the only real solution.”

Coun Bellamy regularly uses the A1 to travel to Grantham for council meetings.

“I normally stay in the slow lane,” he said.

“You always feel uneasy in that section and are almost always expecting traffic to come to half.

“There is virtually an incident between North Witham and Grantham every day.

“Sometimes it is a broken down vehicle but that closes the carriageway so it can be moved so traffic then starts to go through the villages.”

Roger Mortiss from Grantham is a keen photographer who often snaps photos of incidents in south Lincolnshire and Newark area.

A large number of incidents he attends are on the A1.

Although many people would rather photograph a pretty scene rather than a devastating crash, for Roger it is important to document it.

Roger, who has more than 25 years driving experience, said: “I’m from a 999 family.

“My old man was in the fire service for 25 years and my sister is also from a fire background,

“Sometimes it’s horrific and there are things I don’t share but I can’t then take the photo in a week's time.”

Hotspots where he sees the most crashes are the A606 at Stamford by the short slip road, high speed incidents between Stretton and Colsterworth, Woolsthorpe junction, at crossing points by Great Ponton and the southbound at Foston.

Roger said: “It is a very complex thing but a lot of it is down to drivers.

“They treat it like a motorway when it’s not, it’s an A-road.

“Equally, we have junctions which are the originals built in the the 1990s which aren’t suitable any more.”

A campaign to build a flyover on the A1 at the Wittering junction south of Stamford has been rumbling on for a number of years.

Residents, councillors, and personnel from RAF Wittering have put a case forward to the Department for Transport for their Road Investment Strategy ahead of the next programme of works between 2025 to 2030.

Work has also started this month on a 14-week resurfacing project on the A1 between Wothorpe and Stibbington.

All road markings and road studs will be replaced and new road signs installed.

What do you think should be done to make the A1 safer? Let us know in the comments.

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