Car smashing through A494 ‘chicken wire’ fence raises questions over safety of newly designated school walking route
The safety of a newly designated school walking route has been called into question after a car travelling along the A494 in Deeside smashed through a ‘chick wire’ fence and onto a pedestrian path.
The incident happened last Sunday (August 28) when a white Audi A1 came off the eastbound carriageway of the trunk road at Aston Hill.
The vehicle careered through the flimsy fence, destroying a large section, and skidded along the pedestrian/cycle path for around 12 metres.
@hel0801 Tweeted Deeside.com with a photograph of the car and said: “Queues backed up on the A494 heading down Aston Hill due to a car thats gone through the chicken wire fencing onto the footpath.”
She added: “I hope no one was hurt and I wonder if something more protective could be put up now please?”
In response to the social media post, Robin said: “When they first put that chicken wire up I assumed it was temporary, cos it’s such an ugly and crappy solution. I’m guessing Flintshire CC just went for the cheapest possible option?”
Colin said: “It was only a matter of time before this happened……lucky no one was injured.”
Al replied: “Always thought this would happen. They should have moved the crash barriers over which are on the other side of the path, so the “chicken wire” was never the solution. Cost over safety?”
The width of the Audi which went through the fence was around the same as the path, anyone in the car’s way would have either been pinned against the fence or had to take evasive action and jump over a crash barrier into a wooded area if they would have seen it in time.
Over the past two years around £700,000 of Welsh government funding has been spent on upgrading the path to support its ‘Active Travel Act’ which aims to increase levels of walking and cycling in Wales.
Work has included grass verges being cut away, lighting improved and the path widened and a new crossing section at Old Aston Hill junction.
But while the path may conform to the Welsh government’s Active Travel “vision,” when it comes to the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, no new barriers were in the original plans despite vehicles and path users being brought closer together by the footway widening scheme.
A 350-metre section of the path was to be left exposed however towards to end of the works, lightweight fencing was installed following pressure about safety from two local councillors.
Hawarden High School pupils living in Aston and Higher Shotton area have historically qualified for free home-to-school transport under the ‘hazardous route criteria’ because of the path was seen as unsafe.
[Map sent to parents by Flintshire County Council]
An alternative quicker walking route to Hawarden High School along Lower Aston Hall Lane is also deemed hazardous due to there being no pathway, despite calls for one over the years.
The lack of safe walking routes came into sharper focus when John Summer High School closed, which saw an increase in the number of children from Aston, Higher Shotton attending school in Hawarden.
With the work on the path and fence complete, during the summer break, Flintshire council sent out an email to parents of children in Aston and Higher Shotton who attend Hawarden High School.
In the email, the council said a review – which had been delayed by the pandemic – has now taken place and confirmed those pupils currently qualifying under the hazardous route criteria, “will no longer be eligible for free home to school transport.”
“Therefore, as of September 2022, pupils will be expected to utilise the improved walking route available or make their own alternative transport arrangements to and from school. ” The email states.
A map of the route along the A494 path was also included in the email.
Aston ward councillors Helen Brown and George Hardcastle raised concerns about the lack of any type of barrier being included in the initial plans.
“Our persistence resulted in the council agreeing to install a barrier, the end result was absolutely not what was asked for and the cost of the chicken wire fence was shocking and of no use whatsoever.” Cllr Brown said.
“A bus service from Aston, Higher Shotton, Mancot and Garden City would be welcomed but I can guess the answer.”
“Nobody is complaining about walking but safe routes must be provided and clearly, that is lacking with the increased numbers now attending Hawarden High due to John Summers High School closure.” Cllr Brown said.
Following the incident last weekend Deeside.com asked Flintshire Council if there will be a review of the safe walking route and barriers protecting pedestrians.
In response, a spokesperson for the local authority said: “Council Officers will liaise with NMWTRA (North and Mid Wales Trunk Road Agent) to ascertain if any further road safety improvements can be made.”
Parents have already called for safety changes at a “dangerous” junction which forms part of the “recommended” walking route.
As highlighted in a BBC report, drivers are confusing speed limit signs causing them to drive too fast along the slip road joining the A494 eastbound at Ewloe.
Emma Jones said she has to walk her secondary-school age daughter to school each morning to make sure she is safe.
She said: “It’s so dangerous and busy between the hours of eight and nine in the morning so feel I have to take her to school with a friend because of how busy it is.”
Her fears increased after a vehicle entering the slip-road crashed into safety barriers where pedestrians stand as they wait to cross the slip-road.
“When that barrier was taken out, I just thought I’ve got to do something.”
Emma said vehicles should be travelling at 30mph as they enter the slip road, but signs close to where pedestrians cross the road indicate that the speed limit on the A494 ahead is 50mph, so many drivers accelerate before they enter the slip-road.
A Welsh government spokesman said improvements will be carried out this financial year.
The BBC also spoke to twin sisters Trish Eliott and Pauline Hickman, who have lived in the area for 50 years.
“I wouldn’t cross it – we wouldn’t cross it – no way,” said Ms Eliott.
“How a child hasn’t been killed I don’t know.”
Ms Hickman said: “It’s horrendous, it’s a blind corner and they shoot up here.”
While the road is the responsibility of the North and Mid Wales Trunk Road Agent on behalf of the Welsh government, the council is responsible for designating it a safe walking route.
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