A LONG-awaited road safety scheme is due to start next week on a notorious stretch of the A38 near Wellington where nine people have died in a 20-year period.
There has also been a string of other serious accidents on the section of road running from White Ball Hill past the Beambridge Inn and through Perry Elm onto Wellington Relief Road.
The dangers prompted a petition supported by more than 1,300 people which was collected by Beambridge owners Craig and Karen Holmes calling for safety measures.
Now, Somerset Council is planning a three-phase project to make the carriageway safer and has the backing of local councillors in Wellington, Sampford Arundel, and Wellington Without parishes.
The unitary authority plans to reduce the current national speed limit to 50 mph from the Greenham Quarry Road junction near the Devon county border until it meets a 40 mph zone on the relief road.
Traffic flow changes for the Holywell Lake Lane junction onto the A38 are also being finalised, while talks have been ongoing with Avon and Somerset Police to install the county’s first-ever average speed cameras.
Two of the permanent cameras have been proposed but their exact positioning has not yet been settled.
Sampford Arundel Parish Council chairman Cllr Janet Lloyd, who lives close to the A38, said the main issue was the speed at which motorists drove up and down the hill.
She said ‘many drivers, especially motorcycles’, broke the 60 mph limit speed limit on a daily basis.
Cllr Lloyd told the Wellington Weekly: “Police have informed me that speed is the killer, and if users observed the speed limit the fatalities would have possibly been lower.
“The stretch from the Perry Elm roundabout to the top of White Ball Hill has been treacherous and a site of many fatal and life changing accidents and incidents for 20 years.
“During this time, Sampford Arundel Parish Council has been lobbying the county highways authority to install road safety measures.
“We have over the years had meetings and visits from many county road safety engineers, discussions and meetings with the police authority, and the best efforts of three county councillors to try to get works undertaken to make the road safer for users.
“After all these years, we parish councillors and the residents of Sampford Arundel are looking forward to the work that is at last going to start next week on road safety measures.
“We will be watching the development of the improvements with great interest.”
Cllr Lloyd said it seemed the former county council and now unitary authority had finally been prompted to act by the most recent fatality, when West Buckland man Elliot Sparks died in March, 2021.
She said the tragic accident had a personal connection for her because Mr Elliot had been friends with both her sons since their school days.
Cllr Lloyd said one of the hazards on the stretch of A38 was that there were five side roads/lanes which connected to the hill and many of the accidents happened when drivers were exiting and suddenly confronted with speeding vehicles.
She said the planned reduction in speed limit and re-marking of the road was important, but it was also crucial that the authorities followed through on the installation of average speed cameras.
Cllr Lloyd said: “This will be the first time that average speed cameras have been installed in Somerset and any vehicles exceeding the 50 mph speed limit will receive a fine.”
The first phase of the safety works is due to start on Tuesday (October 30) and will see the change of speed limit together with new, coloured road surfaces, and refreshed lining and signage.
Council contractors are scheduling about four weeks in order to finish phase one.
No date has yet been agreed for the alterations to traffic flow in Holywell Lake Lane, which are intended to make entering and leaving the A38 safer.
Parish councillors and local residents have been involved in coming up with proposals for the junction.
Wellington Without Parish Council has separately been pressing for a 20 mph zone through Holywell Lake village.
Parish councillors who are monitoring the situation in the village were told recently there had been ‘a significant increase’ in the numbers of vehicles using The Holloway, with a high proportion of them exceeding the 30 mph limit.