Two horrific crashes on the A1 in less than 24 hours brought the main Belfast to Dublin thoroughfare to a standstill this week.
Two people were rushed to hospital following the first incident on Wednesday, while both lanes were closed after a lorry toppled over the central reservation earlier this morning.
Despite the recent implementation of an improvement scheme on this notorious stretch of road, there have been calls for an emergency traffic management system to be put in place to deal with such incidents.
Newry and Armagh MP Mickey Brady said that the traffic chaos within the Newry and wider locality following the incidents highlighted a deficiency in the management of traffic detour and movement when responding to emergencies on the A1.
“I hope that those injured in this most recent incident will recover fully,” he commented. “And I also commend the work of those Emergency Services present.”
However, he added: “The resulting traffic build ups due to road incidents are expected and something people are expected to tolerate, the A1 has now been closed twice in two days due to unfortunate incidents, but many feel that the chaos experienced by motorists was further compounded due to what seems is the lack of a well coordinated, fully resourced, emergency plan.
“Motorists contacted me as to poor signage visibility and failure to properly direct those vehicles and their drivers who were detoured, all this was compounded further by the dark winter evening.
“The A1 is a major cross border route. Traffic accidents and incidents occur which will necessitate the need for road closure and detours.
“There really needs to be a comprehensive, fully resourced plan ready to kick in immediately. Having increased volumes of traffic and large lorries and vehicles driving around local roads, trying to work out where they are going, increases the likelihood of further accidents.”
SDLP MLA for the area Justin McNulty has called for greater urgency in bringing forward the improvement scheme along the A1 from Sprucefield to the border with Co Louth.
“We’ve had two major traffic accidents on the A1 in the last twenty-four hours, thankfully there were no fatalities on this occasion, but there have been too many lives lost on this stretch of road over recent years,” commented Mr McNulty.
“The Department for Infrastructure have proposals which will improve safety along the route. Elected Representatives received a briefing on these proposals from the Divisional Roads Manager just before Christmas.”
The works will see the closure of all central reservation crossings meaning there will be no more U-turns or right turning out of junctions onto the A1.
Twenty-one junctions will be upgraded to operate on a ‘left in – left out’ only system and ten other junctions will be closed permanently. New safety barriers are to be installed in the central reservation in an effort improve driver safety.
Mr McNulty continued: “The upgrade works are essential and are welcome. However, the scheme is still at development stage with works not planned to commence until 2021. This is still too long away; we need a greater sense of urgency.
“Just this week we saw the publication of an order by the Department for Infrastructure in relation to closure orders or some of the Central Reservations on the A1 at Dromore, but much more needs done and needs done quickly.
“I’m not saying if the works were complete it would have prevented this week’s accidents, nor am I saying it would have saved the lives of all those who have tragically died on the road in recent years.
“However, I do know many of the families who have lost loved ones or who have had friends and family seriously injured on the A1 have firmly stated that if the road was safer, there would not have been an accident.
“For this reason alone, I believe every effort must be made now to ensure the road is much safer for all who use the route as soon as possible.”