Thursday 14 March 2013

Radio Sussex Breakfast Show A27 Debate Comments

I'd first like to thank the BBC, both Radio Sussex's Breakfast Show with Neil Pringle and Mark Norman and Alistair Monk of their sister evening South East Today Television program for dedicating space to cover the campaign to upgrade the A27. Primetime media coverage like this is not only really valuable in helping me raise awareness of this important campaign but also enabled numerous residents and businesses to have their say and enable their voice to be heard - thank you to all those who took part!

For those who were unable to tune in, here follows some of the comments made:

The BBC's Peter Stuart gave this background at the start of the program:

"According to figures from the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership, there were over 500 collisions on the stretch of road between 1997 and 2012. Eighteen of those were fatal. Campaigners also say that congestion, pollution, vehicle breakdowns and night-time road closures for repairs are all hampering business productivity.

Hundreds of people have now signed a petition launched by Patrick Warner from East Sussex County Council calling for the road to be up-graded and made safer.

In the past, pleas for improvement met resistance from Lewes MP Norman Baker on environmental grounds"
The first listener to contribute to the debate, sent this in by text:
"Yes, dual the A27. We need roads to ease an ever-growing population"
Neil from Hove disagreed and had this to say, although I'm not sure how re-opening the Uckfield to Lewes railway line, will help the thousands of motorists who travel between Polegate and Lewes everyday:
"The money would be much better spent on re-opening the Lewes to Uckfield railway. Huge more benefits to region and good for the environment. Duelling the A27 wil just encourage people to go faster, so not good for safety".
Nigel from Eastbourne added:
"The A27 is a dangerous stretch of road especially in the Selmeston area. If you got a new dual carriageway on a more direct route, it could be up to a mile shorter and would, therefore, save up to 30,000 travel miles a day".
An annonymous caller objects to Norman Baker complaining in the press today about too many pointless announcements by railway guards. Caller is blind and finds these essential and not at all annoying. Neil blows Norman a rasberry on air on the caller's behalf.

Then Norman Baker (Lib-Dem MP for Polegate & Lewes and a Transport Minister in the Coalition Government) joined the debate on air after initial technical differences due to being on a train journey and loosing mobile signal, Norman speculated that the the currently unspecified upgrades would cost in excess of £200 million pounds, involve the creation of a seperate road running alongside the existing one, increase pollution, damage special countryside and said that instead of wasting money on upgrading the A27, we should follow the example set by his so far silent friend and colleague, the MP for Eastbourne, Stephen Lloyd who was focussing his attention on job creation through supporting apprenticeships. Norman added that he had been campaigning for safety improvements and that this had already lead to a reduction in accidents.
Dennis Bonnici, a local Electrician and Chairman of the Eastbourne Electrical Contractors Association said:
"As a local tradesman and professional, we desperately need a good transportation network between our towns. Norman Baker says that money would be better spent elsewhere on employment, but I think that's totally wrong. We need transportation to improve employment. And when we do have employment, we need that transportation to be able to transport our employees.
We're often working in Lewes and Brighton and if we could get from A to B quicker, then we could complete our jobs on time. We do need this bit of road and [if it were a dual carriageway] it would make a dramatic difference.
When we are caught along that section of the A27, it not only prolongs our journey time, but adds to the pollution. It's not a question of doing more than 50mph. [The conditions] are often appalling".
The interview with Cllr Patrick Warner came next:
Neil asked Patrick why he had launched the petition, Patrick said "we could argue about the possible economic benefits of upgrading the road and whilst most of us would agree, people like Norman Baker would continue to bury their heads in the sand, but for me the strongest reason to act now is the increasingly dire accident record which Norman Baker is wrong to suggest is going down. Figures from the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership show the figures continue to peak and trough, all the time lives continue to be lost needlessly, families continue to be broken up, people continue to loose working/business hours whilst they queue and wait for accidents to be cleared up and broken down vehicles to be moved. The road is just too narrow for the volume of traffic using it and the numerous accident blackspots continue to be left unattended to."
Neil asked Patrick if a faster A27 would be safer and Patrick responded "well I am specifically not calling for a dual carriageway from end to end because I recognise that not only would the cost be prohibitive but for many of the villages along the road, this may not the right way of addressing the problem for them. But what I am saying is, the figures speak for themselves, they show where the majority of accidents occur and we should be focussing investment on dealing with those first because I believe that if traffic flows safer, it will automatically flow faster which would benefit everyone".
Patrick added "It is however a real shame that Norman seems determined to break the cross party consensus that we are building here, he should be aware that his Lib-Dem Councillor colleagues in both Eastbourne and East Sussex recently back the motions and agree with the approach we are calling for, his comments just go to show how out of touch he is".
Neil then introduces Cllr Keith Glazier, Deputy Leader of East Sussex County Council who had this to say "Absolutely! Apart from conversations I've had with businesses about getting more investment and further development into the area, the fact is so much time is wasted now. Before the snow, it took me 40 minutes to travel one mile to the Polegate junction. There was no accident. The bottom line is the road is currently not fit for purpose and needs to be up-graded. There are cost implications for businesses and everybody. Everyone using the East/West route gets stuck on a daily basis".
Neil added "Norman Baker asks whether £200m could be better spent on employment. How do you respond"? Keith responded "We've just announced a budget for a £400k growth in East Sussex and that will create jobs. This is just part of a bigger picture.
What we must realise is that now Norman Baker is Transport Minister, he has the opportunity to influence this much more than he did before. But let's make no bones about it, Norman has always been against the up-grading of the A27.
When I joined the Council many years ago, he was influential in stopping it happening.
But he's on his own now because all of the LibDem Councillors voted for our motion just a few weeks ago calling on the Government to up-grade the A27.
He needs to look again".
Listener Alex added "Everyone stop moaning. Leave in plenty of time. Stop speeding".
Listener Tom demonstrated the wider point that the A27 in both East and West Sussex is no longer fit for purpose by adding "Have tried for 30 years to get desperately-needed dualling in Worthing".
Luke from Eastbourne added "I have travelled every day on the A27 for 13 years and the traffic just gets heavier and heavier. There is a bottleneck of transport links into Eastbourne and whenever anyone wants to do anything about it, it is opposed by Norman Baker and rich landowners. There may be a problem getting round Selmeston village but otherwise, I don't see any reason why the improvements can't go ahead".
Another listener, Roger added "This is a no-brainer: It will prevent deaths, reduce pollution, improve commercial operations, encourage tourism from Europe. Benefits? To the whole Sussex economy. Norman Baker is a Luddite"!
An annonymous caller added "If Norman Baker did the A27 commute every day, it would have been dualled 20 years ago"!
Chris from Eastbourne had this to say "Our wise masters demonstrated that there is plenty of room to widen the A27 (and stop the carnage) when they built those executive cycle lanes - total waste of money and virtually never used. Keep up the campaign".
Sharon responded to Chris's cycling comments with "Marie Vesco was killed on the A23 nearly five years ago because there was no cycle lane. She said, 'cycling lanes are not pointless... they do save lives".
A further interview took place, this time Doug Thorogood (Transport Spokesman & Vice Chairman of East Sussex Federation of Small Businesses who responded to Neil Pringle's question on whether he thought improvements to the A27 were a good idea with "Without a doubt! The one thing small businesses in this area require is goods, either materials to manufacture, goods to sell, and all of those goods come by road.
Now, 90% of the time, we are at the end of the run, so if a lorry is held up getting to an area, that vehicle then can't make deliveries or collections from small businesses. I've got many members in the area, who have suffered like this in the past".
Neil asked Doug if it puts people of coming and Doug responded "You're not going to get the investment. Businesses will not come to an area where they can't get their supplies or goods delivered to their customers.
They need to have good access to trasnport because without transport, small businesses can't work".
Another listener (this time one of the small number against), Bob said "The A27 a dangerous road? I don't think so - it's the drivers who are dangerous and cause the problem. The solution is simple: slow down the speed to 45mph and say no to overtaking.
You get there quicker and you get there safer. That's what should have been done at Handcross and would have saved a lot of money".
Another caller, Ann said "The A27 is a joke. It's so busy, it's like joining a train of cars every day. It's so narrow, even someone on a bike can cause a 15/20 minute queue.
A broken down car? Well, that's game over.
A dual carriageway would manage the volume of traffic better, so would cutting out Polegate".
Neil Pringle then mentioned that he was holidaying in the Peak District, where there were many dual carriage ways and 3-lane roads. He asked whether we don't deserve nice roads here in Sussex.
He goes on to mention that Cllr Warner's petition has the support of many significant figures and is backed by Police and Crime Commissioner ofr East Sussex, Katy Bourne.
Mark from Eastbourne said "I'm chairman of the Eastbourne powerboat and model boat club. Two other clubs, Electra and Ombra with over 200 members used to come regularly to Princes Park lake but they decided not to come due to the problems of getting to and from Eastbourne. And these are people used to travelling all over the country".
Eastbourne resident Jean said "I would wholeheartedly support any move to improve the stretch of A27 between Lewes and Polegate and make it a dual-carriageway in both directions. It is a treacherous road, which has claimed many deaths and been the cause of numerous accidents, which would have been avoidable had there been a dual carriageway.
Just before Christmas 1999, the James Bond Q actor, Desmond Llewelyn, was killed in an horrific head-on crash on the notorious Firle Stretch after a book-signing in Alfriston. And the carnage continues.
Every day I tune in to the travel news on BBC Radio Sussex and listen to reports of slow-moving traffic, overturned vehicles at the Drusillas roundabout, pile-ups around Middle Farm, accidents near Wilmington on hidden bends, collisions at the Polegate traffic lights and, far too often, fatalities.
How long is it going to take before local politicans and the government wake up to the fact that many more lives are going to be lost and families destroyed if this lethal stretch of the A27 isn't subjected to an immediate and urgent review and plans for a dual carriageway put into place. The land on either side is there, so it wouldn't mean any CPO's or relocating anyone.
Along with my husband Chris, I wholeheartedly support Cllr Patrick Warner's campaign to upgrade the A27 as a matter of urgency. I will sign the petition and hope your listeners will do likewise".
Richard from Burgess Hill complained "There doesn't seem to be a balance on your programme, Neil. It would be good to hear from a national organisation such as the Campaign for Rural England, who would worry about the environmental damage a neew road would cause. It would contrast with those looking at the issue from a narrow, self-serving perspective".
Roger from Eastbourne said "Many dual carriageways run through national parks here and abroad. It's not selfish to want to stop horrendous hold-ups. It would greatly improve access to the South Downs National Park for all".
John from Bexhill completed the listener contributions with "I think Norman Baker is talking absolutely rubbish when he says we've got to build a new road. It's another way of saying we don't want a new road and it's too expensive.
We have the ability to build through mountains and dig tunnels, so what it the problem?
When we moved here 30 years ago, we could drive from Polegate to Brighton in less than half an hour and you would only see a few cars. Now they are nose to bumper all the way on both sides of the road.
Improvements to the A27 should have been done years ago"!

Final thanks must go to campaign supporter, Jean Clark who kindly made notes on the debate to enable me to provide this for readers of my blog and fellow supporters of the campaign to Upgrade the A27 Now - many thanks Jean!


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