New support for our Forty Foot campaign

THE Hunts Post campaign to stop deaths on the Forty Foot Bank Road now has government backing. The campaign was launched in February to reduce the speed limit and install average speed cameras on the deadly road between Ramsey and Chatteris. Hundreds of r

THE Hunts Post campaign to stop deaths on the Forty Foot Bank Road now has government backing.

The campaign was launched in February to reduce the speed limit and install average speed cameras on the deadly road between Ramsey and Chatteris.

Hundreds of readers have responded to an on-line poll, calling for average speed cameras, a speed limit reduced to 30mph, street lighting and a ban on overtaking.

The Department of Transport has now asked councils across England to review speed limits on all roads. It notes that 64 per cent of deaths are on country roads, though most accidents occur in cities.

The Forty Foot Bank Road has a 50mph speed limit on an unlit narrow road with a ditch on one side and a river on the other. It claimed five lives in six weeks between December 20 and February 1 last winter. Two cars went into the river in separate incidents. These were two of 13 injury accidents there in the past three years.

The two fatal accidents were in darkness, one around 5am and one around 5pm. Just four days before Christmas, on December 21, father and son, Dean Hawes, 27 and Jordan, aged seven, drowned when their car went into the river.

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On February 1, another car, with four Portuguese workers on their way to a factory, plunged into the water at 5am.

Three people drowned, Jose Marmeleira, 49, Carlos Condecco, 46 and Cidalina de Oliveria, 56. Mrs de Oliveria had come to England to help support her grandson through university.

The fourth passenger, Jose's 19-year-old son Miguel, managed to swim to safety after his father drowned.

A campaign was launched by Ramsey and Chatteris town councillors and local newspapers, including The Hunts Post and its sister paper, The Cambs Times.

Speed checks on the Forty Foot Bank Road in March found that 82 per cent of drivers broke the speed limit, some doing 90 and even 118mph.

Since the launch of its campaign in February, The Hunts Post has kept an on-line readers' poll on its website. For the past seven months, right up to the time of going to press, there has been a daily response from readers, with hundreds calling for a 30mph speed limit on the road, street lighting, an overtaking ban and average speed cameras. This is the biggest response ever to a poll by this newspaper and 90 per cent of the readers who have responded want action.

In May, the county council announced proposals for average speed cameras along the road to be installed next year - but warned that the proposal would be up against other projects on other roads regarded as equally deadly.

The scheme was costed at between £250,000 to £300,000.

Last week, county councillors (the Huntingdonshire Traffic Management Area Joint Committee) backed a list of schemes, including the average speed cameras for the Forty Foot.

The winning schemes will be decided by the county council's cabinet in December.

They include traffic calming measures in Sapley Road, Huntingdon, Marley Road, St Ives, and on the C339 at the Stukeleys. There is also a plan for an improved right turn on the B645 at Hail Weston at the A141 Broughton turn.

Malcolm Mugridge, lead engineer at Cambridgeshire County Council told The Hunts Post: "The schemes will be rated on the basis of life saving, cost and benefit to the community."

He added: "Speed cameras installed in Nottingham city centre and on the A428 at Northampton have been so successful that no penalties have been issued.

"They won't pay for themselves in that way, but they have saved money because a fatal accident can cost the country up to £1million. The average accident costs the country an estimated £70,000."

He added: "Modern cars are so smooth and comfortable with so much in-car entertainment that there is everything to distract the driver.

"If people took a pride in driving safely and within the speed limit, we would not have to look at putting cushions and humps in the road."

Mr Mugridge said car manufacturers were a powerful lobby and a crackdown was needed on cars with huge horsepower, which was totally unnecessary when the national limit was 70mph.

The Department for Transport also wants to stop the confusion drivers face when speed limits change on different stretches of the same road.

Councils are being told to think of ways to stop drivers speeding, including landscaping and education campaigns.

Research has shown that each one mile an hour reduction in speed can cut the number of accidents by five per cent.

Sean Spiers, the chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, which has welcomed the move, said: "There is a crying need for this. A lot of villages are lobbying their local authorities to introduce 30mph speed limits."

Edmund King, of the RAC Foundation, said there were country roads through villages where the limit is 60mph when it should be 30mph.

The Forty Foot Bank Road has a terrible history. Joyce Van-Kerro, from Ramsey, was 39 and left four children when the car she was travelling in went into the river on December 2, 1989.

She had been Christmas shopping for her children in Chatteris. She left three sons and a daughter.

The car, for a reason which has never been explained, left the Forty Foot Bank Road half a mile west of Puddock Bridge. The driver of the car, Mrs Van-Kerro's boyfriend at the time, survived.

Karen Abblitt, aged 20, was driving her new Mini for the first time on the Saturday of the May Bank Holiday of 1978. She died when her car left the road. Karen, an only child, was on her way to meet her fiance in March to go to a dinner dance. The accident was at Leonard Child's Bridge in Chatteris. Karen had been driving for two years and had never had an accident. Even now, 28 years later, no one knows why her car hit the verge and then veered across the road and into the water. Nothing was found to be wrong with the car.

After both these deaths, the families called for action to make the road safer, but their cries fell on deaf ears.