French driver says sorry for le chaos

A LORRY driver who caused a diesel spill which closed the A14 for five hours has apologised for the disruption to the region’s motorists.

A FRENCH lorry driver has publicly apologised after he caused misery for thousands of motorists in one of last year’s longest and most severe congestion problems on Huntingdonshire’s roads.

The A14 was closed for five hours, doctors heading for surgeries were stuck in traffic, and prisoners on their way to court in Huntingdon had to be taken back to their cells as the accident brought large parts of the district to a standstill.

The problems started after Alfred LeCoustre’s HGV clipped a stationary Hungarian lorry and crashed off the road, causing more than 300 litres of diesel to be spilled at Junction 27 near Fenstanton.

His vehicle ended up in a ditch, and fuel covered both lanes of the westbound carriageway, forcing the closure of the road from 8am until after 1pm on December 10. All three emergency services attended, as well the Highways Agency and Environment Agency.

LeCoustre, 55, appeared at Huntingdon Magistrates’ Court on Thursday (January 6), where he pleaded guilty to driving without due care and attention.

He was accompanied by representatives from his employers Charpentier Transports, a haulage firm based in Calais, who added their apologies to LeCoustre’s.

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The court heard that LeCoustre, of Calais, had been concerned about traffic overtaking him on the right when he hit the stationary lorry, which was parked illegally on a slip road to his left.

Magistrates gave LeCoustre four points on his notional UK licence, fined him �265, and ordered him to pay a �15 victim surcharge and �70 prosecution costs.

Prosecutor John Goodier said: “This incident affected many of those who were in the area on the morning of December 10 – that being a Friday morning in the run-up to Christmas.”

LeCoustre admitted in interview that he had been responsible for the accident, added Mr Goodier, and apologised for the inconvenience he had caused.

David Potter, mitigating, said Mr LeCoustre was an experienced haulier who had been driving on UK roads for 22 years, and that the accident was the first of his career.

He added: “This was a momentary lapse in concentration. The Hungarian lorry was parked on a slip road – it should never have been there in the first place.

“My client has been left very shocked and upset by what happened in this incident, which could have caused serious injury to himself and others.”

Mr Potter said that LeCoustre was reliant on his licence for his livelihood, and that he had not worked or been paid since the accident, while his employers carried out their own internal investigation.

Magistrate Stephen Barley acknowledged that the Hungarian lorry should not have been parked where it was, and praised LeCoustre’s company for its handling of the incident.

He added: “We accept that this was a momentary lapse in concentration, albeit the consequence was the closure of a road for a great length of time and was a great inconvenience to many people.”