More than 2,500 people have now signed a petition calling on Surrey County Council to ‘make our roads through Wrecclesham safer!’
And last Friday (July 15), villagers grasped the opportunity to grill Surrey’s portfolio holder for transport, Matt Furniss, and Chief Inspector Michael Hudder live on BBC Radio Surrey.
Opening the discussion was local woman Charlotte Panter who launched the petition at https://tinyurl.com/ycksnsu4 in the wake of the crash two weeks ago, in which a lorry struck the railway bridge and rolled on to a Nissan Qashqai, seriously injuring the driver.
Ms Panter said villagers had been campaigning for action to make the A325 safer through the village for 60 years, “and in that time not enough has been done”.
She added: “Only a few metres down that road is a secondary school of 1,600 or more children – it could have been so much worse.”
Jo Michaelides, another villager, said: “I’m just really, really concerned that one day one of these stories that we read about when the bridge is hit and the lorry flips over is going be about a fatality.
“If that is the only way change is effected, that’s disgraceful.”
She added the bridge “really needs some long-term investment and real interest from government”.
Alan Vallis, who has lived in the area for 44 years, said earlier on ‘Miracle Monday’, just hours before the HGV crash, a coach packed full of children on its top deck was seen reversing away from the bridge, after its driver said his sat-nav told him the bridge was safe.
Sympathising with villagers’ concerns, Chief Inspector Hudder from Surrey Police said: “You can’t underestimate the impact this is having on the community, can you?”
He added the female driver of the crushed car “sustained broken ribs” but added: “I don’t think injury is the end of it because mentally, she was trapped in that car for a number of hours before they got her out.”
He also confirmed the force was pursuing charges against the HGV driver involved, on the grounds of causing serious injury by careless driving.
That carries a maximum potential sentence of two years in prison and an obligatory disqualification.
He added there is “great signage” at the bridge, “but drivers just don’t seem to understand that vehicles over 4.2 metres in height can’t go that way”.
Surrey transport portfolio holder Cllr Furniss recognised the bridge in Wrecclesham was “a long-standing issue”, but added: “There is no simple solution”.
He said: “The solutions we are looking at is a bypass or whether we can lower the road under the bridge and so forth. They are expensive but we are investigating them.
“There is plenty of signage, and really there should be no excuse for HGV drivers using this route and putting other drivers and pedestrians at risk.
“We can make sure the signage is clear, all foliage has been cut back and we are working with Network Rail to make it more conspicuous by painting and using chevron signs on the bridge itself.
“We are also talking to National Highways, who manage the A3, to make sure that during any unplanned closures traffic goes via different roads in Hampshire and the A31 rather than Wrecclesham.
“So we are working with our partners to see what we can do in the meantime, but any permanent solution will actually be a long-term one and will require Network Rail to agree because it is their bridge.”
He added: “All commercial drivers should be using a commercial sat-nav rather than a normal car one.”
And on the potential for metal width-restriction bollards on the road, as reported in the Herald earlier this year, Cllr Furniss said this had been considered, but would prove a “struggle”.
They would require a turning point to be created, he said, “and we just don’t have the room at this location”.
He continued: “That’s why we are considering the more expensive options, which include lowering the road or a bypass.
“We would need government backing to do so, but we are looking at that.”