THE A34 could be upgraded to a motorway as part of a Government review into the safety of the “dangerous” trunk road, it was announced on Wednesday.
During a parliamentary debate on the safety of the busy dual carriageway, highways minister John Hayes said he would consider the move as part of the Government’s £15bn drive to improve the nation’s roads through the Road Investment Strategy.
The safety of the A34 has been under the spotlight following a number of fatal accidents in West Berkshire and Oxfordshire.
Most recently, in August, Tracy Houghton, 45, from Dunstable, Bedfordshire, her two sons, Ethan, 13, and Joshua, 11, and her partner’s daughter Aimee Goldsmith, 11, were killed in a horrific eight-vehicle pile up at East Ilsley, while just three weeks later a three-year-old girl died in a collision near Oxford.
Raising the debate in Westminster Hall on Wednesday morning, MP for Didcot and Wantage Ed Vaizey said the road was no longer fit for purpose.
He said the road was running over- capacity, which he concluded was the reason for the number of accidents on the dual carriageway.
As well as safety, which Mr Vaizey said was the primary concern, the economic impact of delays on the road must also be considered.
Mr Vaizey told MPs: “Action is long overdue and the need to urgently improve safety alone would justify investment of money and time from the Department for Transport and Highways England.”
He made calls for immediate safety improvements to the road, including a risk assessment and “evidence-based” traffic calming measures such as chevrons, speed cameras, crawler lanes and improved refuge and rest areas.
MP for Oxford East Andrew Smith said: “The problem we face is that the A34 is fulfilling the role of a motorway without motorway capacity or features.”
Responding to MPs, Mr Hayes said the safety of the road had been a “considerable concern” for some time.
He said: “This is a relatively small road with a hilly terrain carrying a large amount of HGVs to and from the port of Southampton.
“For that reason it is sometimes it is a difficult road to navigate.”
As part of the first phase of the Government’s Road Investment Strategy, Mr Hayes said urgent improvements to the road would be considered, before 2020.
However, he added: “But I want to go further than. that.
“I think the call that has been made in this debate for a still more strategic piece of work.
“It has been described as a motorway. I think we do need to think that through, but that would be part of the Road Investment Strategy as it moves to its second and third phase as it requires a different scale of work, but none-the-less the significance of this road is not lost on me.”
Following the debate, Newbury MP Richard Benyon, who was unable to attend in person as he is abroad on Parliamentary business, said: “This road is a major north-south arterial route and is overloaded and un-safe.
“With the number of new houses and new jobs planned for this area, the volume of traffic is set to increase exponentially over the next decade. It is time to take action now.
“I am pleased that this issue is being aired in Parliament and we will continue to put pressure on all the relevant authorities to get something done as soon as possible.”