Accident knocks lights out

Morpeth traffic lights.
Morpeth traffic lights.

CAMPAIGNERS have called for the hasty removal of unpopular traffic lights after an accident led to an impromptu trial without them.

The controversial lights at Telford Bridge in Morpeth were damaged in an accident in the early hours of Saturday morning.

An engineer from Northumberland County Council attended immediately, but the lights could not be repaired and were switched off, leaving traffic to negotiate the junction without them until Tuesday morning.

Members of the Lights Out group, which has been leading a 16-month campaign to remove the signals, say there was free flowing traffic throughout the period, with no queues, no aggression and no accidents, but when the lights were switched back on congestion and confusion returned.

The Herald reported last month that consultant Phil Jones, who was commissioned by the council to review Morpeth’s traffic network, was recommending a six-month trial without the lights, but it was unlikely to take place before October.

Now Lights Out has called for it to be brought forward.

Chairman David Towns said: “I can’t see why we have to wait until October for this experiment.

“I’m happy to go along with what Phil Jones says because we have always wanted to play by the rules. Phil has recognised that this trial is needed, but I have asked him to bring that forward. I don’t see any point in waiting. The supermarket is open and the traffic isn’t going to be any different in October to what it is now.

“The temporary disablement of the lights showed how nice it was without them. I went to look for myself on Saturday and I had a huge smile on my face because it showed we were right all along that the lights were the cause of a problem, not the solution. Now that they are back on everyone is complaining again.

“The whole thing has proved to be completely ineffective and quite frankly, dangerous. We do feel vindicated.”

A council spokeswoman said: “The lights were damaged in a collision in the early hours of Saturday morning. The heads of the traffic lights could not be repaired on site and had to be taken away so we had to switch the whole system off in the meantime. They were repaired and replaced on Tuesday morning.

“Mr Jones will present the final report of his review to the council in September. The council and the steering group has agreed to listen carefully to the options and recommendations and will move quickly to implement any interim proposals.”

The lights were installed in April last year in an attempt to ease congestion from a new supermarket off Dark Lane. However, they immediately sparked protests, with hundreds of residents turning out at two public meetings and a march to call for the reinstatement of a mini-roundabout, saying the lights were dangerous, confusing and increased congestion.