Conservative MP for Grantham and Stamford Gareth Davies discusses the A1 as no major improvements are made since his election
An MP whose election pledge was to tackle safety issues on the A1 has seen no major improvements on the road since entering the House of Commons.
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.
But despite representing the local electorate for more than 18 months, nothing has been done on the ground and the MP said this week he is “not responsible” for roads.
The problems Mr Davies identified back in 2019 included short slip-roads and gaps in the central reservation allowing vehicles to be driven across the A1.
There were 17 deaths on the A1 between Stamford and Newark in the five years to December 2019, and a further 69 serious crashes were also recorded.
While last year’s lockdowns reduced traffic, levels have crept back to pre-pandemic times and the past few weeks have brought several accidents.
In addition to the devastation this causes those involved, accidents are also responsible for long delays on the road and the knock-on effect of drivers diverting through villages and towns to escape the tailbacks.
Mr Davies last year called on Highways England to improve the A1 by closing gaps in the central reservation and improving central reservation crash barriers.
But this week he admitted to being ‘disappointed’ by the pace of their work.
“Obviously I’m not responsible for the road network, Highways England is responsible,” he said, adding “Everyone loves to blame the politician”.
In May last year, Mr Davies met Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport Baroness Vere of Norbiton and representatives of Highways England.
“I was quite pleased to hear they were aware of some issues we have on our stretch of the A1,” he said.
“They identified a number of things they are looking at in terms of improvement.”
Mr Davies highlighted the need for new crash barriers, the closure of gaps in the central reservation and a solution to slip roads which drivers feel are too short to be safe.
“I came from the meeting assured they would be looking at this in great detail. A number of people I met with kept in touch,” he said.
“I had a subsequent meeting in February this year and they were still reviewing, which I wasn’t particularly pleased about. I would have hoped more progress would have been made.”
Mr Davies said he had another meeting with the road minister in May this year before writing to Highways England to say progress should be made as soon as possible.
While the MP was keen to reassure residents he is ‘on the case’ and making sure Highways England knows the importance of the improvements, he admitted it was a long process that would take time.
He said: “Any upgrade or environment changes go through full review and consultation. For example, closing a cross-over gap in the central reservation would have an impact on people that use it.”
Mr Davies is planning to survey some constituents about the A1 safety issues that need to be tackled and said he would expect this to be worked on by Highways England in the next year, and action to be taken as soon as practicably possible.
“I’m disappointed by the pace of Highways England and hope it speeds up,” he said. “Next year I expect more and quicker action.”
Gareth Davies spoke, albeit briefly, on the need for improvements to the A1 in the Commons in January last year.
The Tory MP for Grantham and Stamford addressed the then Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid and said: “Transport infrastructure is a critical factor for improving productivity in my constituency.
“Can the Chancellor assure me that the Government will make the necessary investments in key arterial roads such as the A1 in Lincolnshire?”
In response, Mr Javid replied: “We will soon publish our second road investment strategy, which will set out our plans, but I can assure my honourable friend that in this Government’s infrastructure revolution no part of our country will be left behind.”
Unfortunately the second Road Investment Strategy (2020–2025) had no mention of improving the A1 in this area.
Residents of several villages often bear the brunt of safety problems on the A1.
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.
A spokesman for South Witham Parish Council said: “Such diversions happen fairly frequently on Church Lane and Water Lane and this causes congestion.
“Church Lane in particular is a very narrow road with two sharp bends, which are extremely difficult for large lorries or articulated vehicles to negotiate.
“There is an ‘unsuitable for heavy goods vehicles’ sign at both ends of Church Lane.
“Domestic traffic has to slow or stop to allow enough passing space on this road and commercial vehicles greatly add to this issue.”
The A1, they point out, was not designed to carry the volumes of traffic currently using it.
“Because it is not a motorway there is no hard shoulder, so vehicles which have broken down or have been involved in an accident, slow up the rest of the traffic and cause long tailbacks,” they explained. “The road is urgently in need of an upgrade to three lanes and to be given motorway status.
“The number of accidents places a huge strain on the police and emergency services and traffic delays have a detrimental economic impact on business and commerce.”
The parish council also highlights that slip roads off the A1 are too short for traffic to slow on them safely, and that long vehicles using gaps in the central reservation to cross the A1 have been seen jutting out into moving traffic.
North Witham resident and South Kesteven District councillor, Dave Bellamy, is also keen to see changes.
He said: “This section of the A1 has average speed cameras from Colsterworth to Little Ponton. I have consulted with the parish councils about having a 50mph speed limit to mitigate the centre crossings, short slip roads and laybys.
“This section, which is about six miles long, has about 30 gaps in the barrier; every farmer’s field has its own crossing point. People’s private drives also come out directly onto the A1, which is obviously bonkers with it being such a busy road andhaving a 70mph speed limit.
“This road, built in the 1960s, obviously isn’t fit for purpose, particularly now thousands more houses are being built - more than 100,000 between Peterborough and Doncaster, I believe.
“Also there are more LGVs and HGVs on the A1 than the M1, which is another startling statistic.”
Mark Bush, chairman of Great Casterton Parish Council, highlighted the effect the proposed Stamford North development will have.
He said much of the new traffic would join the A1 from Stamford North at Great Casterton.
He added: “There must be a road for this new Stamford development linking to the A1. We don’t want people to travel through the village.”