This article originally appeared in The Herald Newspaper on 14th February 2018.
Earlier this month I hosted a meeting with my fellow Oxfordshire MPs and the Roads Minister, Jesse Norman. The subject, as ever, was the A34.
The A34, as all of you who use it regularly will know, is not fit for purpose. The more than 50 accidents causing death or serious injury over the last five years are testament to this. Last October, following a particularly serious accident and a meeting with the local A34 Action Group, I hosted a debate in Parliament on the topic. Colleagues from across the region came to give passionate speeches on the problems their constituents had with the road. As a result of the debate the then Roads Minister, John Hayes, agreed to have a safety review carried out, with a view to implementing is suggestions in improving the road.
Since then Highways England, the agency responsible for the A34, have been engaged in the complex task of reviewing the road. This review has now been published, with a number of recommendations for improvements, including new laybys, changes to junctions and new signs. The meeting last week was about the results of that safety review and I am pleased to report that the new Minister was very receptive to the suggestions put forward.
A large number of stakeholders have helped make the case for improving the A34, including local businesses, the A34 Action Group, councils and MPs. The A34 Action Group carried out a survey of its members which fed into the Highways England Report and local businesses collected feedback from their employees of their experience driving on the road. I was particularly keen to stress the amount of times that road has been closed as the result of minor accidents. Often these are shunts caused by drivers exiting laybys, something that could be prevented if the laybys had better visibility. Better signage on sections of the roads where lorries are banned from overtaking would also have an impact on decreasing the number of tailbacks.
Local residents have also approached me with concerns about the diversion routes taken when the A34 is closed, as it can result in large vehicles moving at high speed through residential areas.
We now have a real chance to change the road for the better, making it easier to drive on and above all make it safer. The Department for Transport is currently considering the options and will report back shortly with the action it is going to take.