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Army and Navy: 'I will not let them rest until something is done'

By Essex Chronicle  |  Posted: May 17, 2012

  • ACCIDENT BLACKSPOT: The aftermath of another crash at the Parkway entrance to the notorious Army & Navy flyover

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AFTER 34 years, dozens of accidents, three deaths, many more serious injuries and countless complaints falling on deaf ears, one woman's campaigning has convinced Essex County Council to look at ways to make the notorious Army & Navy flyover safer.

A car travelling the wrong way over the one-way Chelmsford flyover smashed into Janet Barnes' car in March.

She escaped with cuts and bruises, but her 87-year-old mother Peggy Taylor was left with a broken chest bone, snapped wrist and severe bruising.

Peggy is now confined to a mental health ward after "going off the rails" in the aftermath of the crash, when they had to be cut free from the crumpled car.

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While she is stuck in the Crystal Centre in Broomfield Hospital, daughter Janet, 65, from West Hanningfield, has launched a tireless crusade to bring changes to the flyover.

And her demands have caused such a stir that the issue was raised at a full meeting of Essex County Council's top brass this week.

Seventy of the most influential politicians in Essex packed into County Hall as the matter was discussed.

Cllr Mike Mackrory, acting leader of the Essex Liberal Democrats and county councillor for Springfield, told the packed chamber: "There are eight lanes on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and they can organise traffic flows in any combination they like. We need to look at solutions like that.

"I am very anxious to hear what additional measures are being brought forward following this awful spate of incidents including a tragic death."

Councillors are now putting in place an action plan to fix the structure, which has been labelled a "death trap".

Cllr Dick Madden, county councillor for central Chelmsford, added: "The Army & Navy is critical to the Essex economy and has a direct effect on people living in my area.

"I am raring to hear what ideas they have."

After each head-on crash since the flyover was built as a temporary structure in 1978, the council has been inundated with complaints.

But they have only decided to put their "action plan" into motion after a series of confrontations with Mrs Barnes.

She took her bandaged mum to Essex County Council's Chelmsford headquarters recently for a showdown.

They demanded to speak to Liz Saville, the council's head of highways network management, but were denied a meeting. However, after refusing to leave, Ms Saville eventually emerged to speak to the pair.

Mrs Barnes said: "When we went to see the woman at the council my mum grabbed hold of her and was crying her eyes out, saying 'look at me, I do not want anyone else to go through this'.

"The woman was nearly in tears when my mum said, 'I used to have a life, now I am just an old woman and my mind has gone'."

Peggy is now in the Crystal Centre after failing to recover mentally from the March 16 crash.

"These last months have been hell and it just seems to be getting worse," said Mrs Barnes.

"I do not even know how long she is going to be at the Crystal Centre now. It always makes me a bit sad when I go in there.

"Fingers crossed, something will actually be done now."

An Essex County Council spokesman said: "A meeting was held at County Hall to review the specific circumstances around recent incidents at the Army & Navy flyover.

"We are continuing to investigate whether any specific safety improvements are required, and will provide further updates when a decision has been taken.

"Essex County Council is continuously looking at ways to improve Essex's highways and has drivers' safety at the top of its agenda."

But Mrs Barnes added: "I will not let them rest until something has been done. My life has not taken this immense turn for the worse for nothing.

"Looking at the state of my mother is a reminder every day of what happened.

"I'm worried this 'action plan' will be all talk and I won't quit until something substantial is done to fix the problem."

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  • Rhollamby  |  May 17 2012, 3:57PM

    @Tolkny. Whether County Councillors are well paid or not surely is subjective and can only be assessed by a full disclosure of all the benefits that come with the package. Surely they cannot be as well paid as most investment bankers nor as poorly paid as your local vicar. Nobody compels them to seek your vote or mine, but they seek election anyway. I am admittedly cynical about the type of personality to seek election to office that they might supposedly represent your views and interests. Even if they were honest in their hearts at the outset, the party whip system at national govt level will ensure they toe the party line or not get re-selected. Not many resign on points of principal. You make a good point that we the people are at fault by only voting in the same old mainstream politicians but I would think it is for similar reasons as why most when buying a car would choose a Ford or Vauxhall rather than a Dacia or something equally obscure. The other option is to not buy a car at all - i.e. do not vote for these blackguards. And anyway, in the main, politicians never keep their pre-election promises; so what is the point of our voting? That's a rhetorical question but it explains to me why so many people today do not bother to vote. Their vote doesn't count, their voice isn't heard. The flyover issue is a small parochial example of that, and bigger examples are things such as illegal wars or bailing out the banks with our children's futures. As for allowing unelected European parliaments to dictate our laws .... My toll bridge suggestion was partly tongue-in-cheek. But my point is that if this bridge is important for traffic flow, and if it is obviously dangerous, then why has nothing been done - nor probably will be done. You seem to be suggesting that this may be because of different bodies who all pass the authority/responsibility buck. I would suggest that when citizens lives are at risk and in fact have been lost over many years, the authority should at the very least be taken up by no less than the Honourable Member of Parliament. I don't know or care who disclaims responsibility for the road/bridge/maintenance. And nor do those who are dead because of it. Change the flyover and change it now, or close it and rip it down.

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  • Tolkny  |  May 17 2012, 3:09PM

    I don't suggest it is the "colour of the political spectrum that matters" but it is a fact that for most of the time since the establishment of Essex County Council it has been dominated by members of the Conservative party. There are plenty of other councils dominated by the Labour Party where there has also been massive ineptitude. Rarely have other Parties had much of a look in and that is my and the other electors faults. Largely speaking County Councillors are not well paid. I am not sure of the current system but suspect that it is only in more recent years there has been anything like a salary for them and in Essex there are Conservatives who have not taken all that to which they were entitled so to do, some over very many years. However there are others who have done so, possibly as a way of keeping up with what are virtually an Essex aristocracy, who seem to behave as if they have a right to rule, rather than an opportunity to serve. We also need to distinguish which level of public Authority is responsible for what. A County Council has the main responsibility for Highways but there are complications and it is not a straight forward responsibility, however I think it very likely that Essex CC has always been the responsible authority as far as the Flyover is concerned. I think County Council's are no longer viable now they have been mixed up with the Unitary Authorities of Thurrock, Southend-on-Sea, rather like the pre 1974 County Boroughs of which there were many in Essex. Possibly the statutorily meaningless "City" status for Chelmsford will bring a new push for it to become a Unitary Authority, possibly along with one of it's neighbouring District Councils. That would mean there is far more focus by the elected representatives on a smaller area and so perhaps less need to be concerned about the image of a wider area. Whilst Chelmsford has always been the County Town, the Councillors representing Chelmsford on ECC are as responsible for Highways other vital places like Harwich, Harlow, Clacton and Colchester, etc., that it is difficult to get a majority to focus on any particular road scheme, even repeated major accidents have not done so. That is where the media can have an impact. I think that imposing tolls is not feasible as attractive as it may seem when one first thinks about it.

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  • Rhollamby  |  May 17 2012, 12:14PM

    @ Tolkny It is not the colour of the political spectrum that matters; public "servants" (sic) of all parties have lost the moral compass when it comes to helping themselves to just a little bit more of your money. I find it offensive that these well paid scoundrels with a protected pension dip into the public purse, but I feel very angry when I see elderly pensioners for example having to buy the cheapest cuts of meat etc while our elected representatives gorge themselves at their (and everyone else's) expense. Regarding the "Scalextric" flyover (bridge) it is a disgrace that it is allowed to continue and it makes a mockery of Health & Safety. Perhaps a Corporate Manslaughter charge with a prison penalty might change attitudes (not a fine, because guess who will have to fund that?) My favoured solution would be to place a manned toll booth on each side with a barrier, and charge say £1.50 to use the bridge. That would solve the safety issue, might raise some cash towards a replacement bridge, but most likely the ensuing traffic chaos might just finally persuade those in authority to do what years of accidents, incidents, and several deaths have failed to achieve. The bridge needs replacing. Now.

  • Tolkny  |  May 17 2012, 10:17AM

    It is not investigation that is needed but action. I was driving the correct way across there and met someone coming the 'wrong' way who stopped and had difficulty reversing back - that was in the early 1980's - this is not a new problem. Hardly surprising Essex County Council has not got it sorted yet when one considers the sort of people who have been allowed to lead it by the Conservatives, people who cannot tell whether they are committing a crime when they claim expenses and others who merge into the mist when the one they supported for many years is found out. It looks like Mrs Barnes has found them out now as far as the flyover is concerned. I am sorry I did not pursue them after my near miss nearly 30 years ago. They have been dominated by councillors more concerned by which party is in power than by what actions they take. Sadly too few of us take Local Government seriously and if we vote, base our votes in local elections on what we think of the Prime Minister rather than whether we believe those who are candidates are able and willing to look after local issues to the best of their ability for the good of the community. Things might be better with some consistent press scrutiny of local councils rather than just turning up when there is an issue of conflict. If we bought local papers as a way of checking on the record of what is happening rather than just to see someone we know have their photo in it or such like, it would be better, but I guess good local journalism is almost dead as there is now so little financial profit in print journalism. It is down to us Twitter using generation to highlight problems - and thankfully there is also Mrs Barnes!

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