FARMERS For Action say that finally commonsense has prevailed at the Department for Infrastructure (DFI) over the Bregagh and Fivey crossroads on the main Gracehill Road, County Antrim, notorious accident black spots.
Bregagh crossroads is a route used by tourists going to see the Dark Hedges made famous by the Game of Thrones, while tourists may also use the Fivey crossroads, both of which can be sat nav routes. The problem arises particularly with Canadian and American tourists to whom Give Way signs are unfamiliar and as a result they can find themselves driving straight across main roads without stopping.
Last year newly married US tourist Michael Monroe, in Northern Ireland on his honeymoon, lost his life at the Bregagh crossroads.
In the summer of 2019 two Canadians and their three-year-old daughter collided with the daughter and four-year-old grand-daughter of a member of FFA’s Steering Committee. Fortunately in this case none were seriously injured. However, two cars were destroyed and a holiday ruined.
Since mid-summer an intensive FFA campaign and meetings with DFI have been ongoing. However, the pressure on DFI continued with Robin Swann UUP offering to arrange a meeting with the Permanent Secretary Katrina Godfrey, which took place on Wednesday, October 30.
Meanwhile, ahead of the meeting, the DFI announced on Monday, October 28, that the Give Way signs would be replaced by Stop signs, complete with 100 yard warning stop signs, rumble strips and hedge removal where required.
In the meeting with the Permanent Secretary and deputies, FFA insisted that the Stop signs would go up immediately and were pleased to hear that the signs were already ordered, to be delivered within two weeks and confirmation was given that they would be in place within the month.
FFA made clear that the hotch potch mix of Give Way and Stop signs at crossroads throughout Northern Ireland as a result of 1960s UK legislation needed brought into the 21st century by ensuring that all crossroads have Stop signs in place.
FFA’s final effort was to make clear just how bad the maintenance level of rural roads now are, to the point of them being unsafe for non-sprung tractors and farm machinery operators driving along them. DFI replied that its budget had increased last year but such was the shortfall previously it is still playing catch-up and admitted that it was much cheaper to resurface rural roads where needed than to repair continuously. Yet another job for the vacant Chair of Stormont Minister.
Causeway Coast and Glens Councillor Joan Baird, who also attended the meeting, pointing out that the crossroads on the main Drones Road/Fivey Road intersection needed Stop signs, again an accident black spot.
Later that evening on her way home via Gracehill Road, Councillor Baird came across yet another accident at the Bregagh crossroads, where thankfully no-one was seriously injured – a stark reminder for DFI that there must be no slacking in having the Stop signs erected.
Concluding, William Taylor, FFA, would like to thank the following people and organisations for all their efforts in the campaign for Stop signs: Cllr Joan Baird, Robin Swann MLA and other supporting MLAs at numerous meetings, kindly hosted by the charity Life After, the American Consulate, Bob McCallion of Save the Dark Hedges, Lesley and Tom Jarvis. Also others who supported the campaign on social media and other ways, who will be eagerly watching that the DFI keeps its word.