Email from Andy Ekinsmyth of WSCC regarding Gina McWilliam’s death. Share by Jeremy Gould:
Thank you for your email message. I am deeply saddened by this terrible event and my thoughts are with the family, friends and all of those affected.
The tragic accident on the A259 at Salthill Road is currently subject to a police investigation. I am sure you will appreciate that that these matters are both complex and sensitive and that it would be wrong to try to draw any conclusions until such time as the police investigation is complete and the matter has been concluded either in a criminal court or following a Coroner’s inquest. While the police investigation is ongoing I am unable to comment specifically with regard to the recent accident as it is essential the police inquiry remains open and transparent and that nothing enters the public domain which could prejudice the outcome of that investigation. This is of course true for all such investigations.
I would like to assure you that WSCC takes road safety extremely seriously. WSCC has an established group that specifically considers each and every road death or potential road death with a view to reduce the likelihood of a similar incident from reoccurring. The group consists of staff experienced in all aspects of road safety, and highways and traffic engineering. Sussex Police also have a representative who acts as a conduit between the police and highway authority investigations. As part of the WSCC investigation traffic officers from one of the local highways team attend and inspect the scene within 72 working hours following notification of an incident, initially to establish if there are any immediate safety issues which need an immediate fix. This inspection took place on the 25th November 2019.
I can confirm that the Chichester to Emsworth route achieved a high score using Sustrans’ RATE tool, and as such is the second highest ranking inter-community utility route featured in the West Sussex Walking and Cycling Strategy 2016-2026. The Strategy prioritises schemes for feasibility investigation, with feasible schemes progressing to the design stage with a view to identifying funding to enable future delivery.
In light of this, and with the advent of the LCWIPs (local cycling and walking infrastructure plans) in 2017 along with the awarding of 60 days technical support from the Department for Transport via their consultants WSP. Chichester to Emsworth is one of 6 inter-community utility routes that will feature in the ‘Draft West Sussex LCWIP’, which is due to be submitted to the Department for Transport in mid-December. The LCWIP process involves: auditing routes, recommending feasible improvements in line with best practice guidance, highlighting challenges/proposing alternative options and a high level costing. I am yet to see the draft final report which I expect will be made more widely available once it has been approved.
The LCWIP is not in itself a delivery mechanism – it is a document that can help to make the case for directing investment and securing external funding where this may be required. It can also help secure improvements through local development sites where these are proposed. This is vital because, due to their long-distance nature, improvements to routes featured in the West Sussex LCWIP are likely to cost many millions of pounds, and so external funding contributions will be required in order to deliver them. To put this in context, our annual budget for all local transport improvements (the Integrated Transport Block allocation from the government) is £3.7m. To provide one kilometre of 3m wide shared path adjacent to the highway costs approximately £550,000.
In addition, we have asked Highways England to complete a feasibility study for the Chichester to Emsworth route through its Designated Fund programme (Cycling Safety and Integration). A study was commissioned during 2018/19 but work on this route was paused alongside other similar projects due to funding concerns. Highways England have been reviewing the programme of projects and we await their decision.
As you are aware the ‘Chichester District Council LCWIP’ looks at routes within the city boundary. In terms of Chichester to Emsworth this means from the A27 underpass at Fishbourne Road East. In addition, I can advise that improvements to Westgate will be provided as part of the Whitehouse Farm development.
With regard to collision data, I note that Sarah has forwarded the link to the casualty data on our website, however you can also request a more specific data study by contacting the data team at firstname.lastname@example.org
One of many responses to this email shared on facebook- this from Rupert Emerson:
It is worth just reading this statement carefully. Note for example “recommending feasible improvements in line with best practice guidance”. I see no best practise anywhere in Sussex. There might be something in London I think but it is as rare as hen’s teeth. The Department for Transport guidance is quite good having said that, but somehow it never happens that way. On another point, money. There is money already being spent by WSCC but it is being wasted on pots of paint. I wish they would stop doing that. Instead save it up and build 100 metres of a cycle route properly, say for example out from The Cross. Then when funds allow internally or externally build another piece. One of the beauties of the Chemroute design is that it can be done this way. However when you hit something like a roundabout you have to be decisive in changing the infrastructure but what I think will happen is that bits and bobs will be done and difficult bits left, which is worse than doing nothing. Now we come to the really worrying bit. Shared path. Is the idea to create a shared path alongside the road? If so £550,000 for one kilometre is a hell of a waste of money. Don’t do it. A separated cycle path is what is required. I hope you are not saying cyclists share with pedestrians, please! Of course the whole decision making process and the plans are kept so secret. Not once has WSCC thought to bother to write and tell me what they have in mind, or tell me of something in the public domain that I could look at. Having been one of the UK’s leading transport researchers I find this very disappointing. Talk of high priority, reports etc. therefore strike me as a smokescreen for inaction as summed up by Dick Pratt. If you think I am being unfair Andy Ekinsmyth then send me your current plans and ask me to comment.