Death of biker sparks road probe

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POLICE are to carry out an urgent in-depth analysis of an 18-mile stretch of a major road in the Borders after one of its most notorious accident blackspots – Dirtpot Corner near Cardrona – claimed the life of a motorcyclist on Saturday.

The investigation into the A72 from Peebles to Galashiels was announced by Chief Constable David Strang at Monday’s meeting of Lothian and Borders Police Board.

He was responding to a call for action in the wake of the weekend fatality from Councillor Gavin Logan (Con, Tweeddale East), who represents Scottish Borders Council on the board.

At about 9.40am on Saturday, 49-year-old David Arnot from Perth was killed at Dirtpot Corner when his motorcycle, having headed down Horsburgh straight towards Innerleithen, was in collision with a Peugeot car travelling in the other direction.

The four occupants of the car sustained minor injuries and were later released from the Borders General Hospital. The road was closed for five hours as officers carried out a full accident investigation.

Although local police are still seeking witnesses to the incident, Mr Logan claimed the death of Mr Arnot had highlighted the pressing need for Dirtpot to be realigned – a project hatched by SBC after a landslide blocked the road for six weeks.

In February he defied his party whip and voted against the £4.7million project, involving the construction of two new bridges over the River Tweed, being removed from SBC’s five-year capital budget. Instead, councillors approved the inclusion of just £300,000 to strengthen temporary measures to stablise the banking above the corner.

“I am certainly not cashing in on this tragedy, but I am more convinced than ever that the council made a grave mistake in deprioritising the removal of this perilous corner which links two straights,” said Mr Logan.

He added: “I am delighted with the Chief Constable’s response. Hopefully, the analysis of the A72 will come up with some hard data to convince the council that it needs to seriously rethink its priorities.”

A police spokesperson said yesterday that the probe, which would be carried out as a matter of urgency, would focus on the state of the road surface, traffic volumes, known collision sites and updated data of the numbers killed or seriously injured.

“This has been prompted by the weekend fatality allied to the local political background,” he added, revealing the results would be reported to the multi-agency Road Safety Working Group which includes representatives of the police, other emergency services, Transport Scotland and SBC, which is responsible for maintaining the region’s non-trunk road network.

Mr Logan’s call for the Dirtpot realignment to be reinstated in the council’s capital spending programme was supported by Ross McGinn, chairman of Innerleithen Community Trust.

“Up to now the arguments have tended to centre on the commercial and tourism impact of closure caused by landslides at Dirtpot, but the weekend fatality reminds us this is an unacceptably dangerous feature of what is, after all, a major road,” said Mr McGinn.

Council leader David Parker said this year’s decision to delay realignment was in the context of a 19 per cent cut in SBC’s capital spending budget.

He said: “We do not know by how much that budget will be cut next year, but it will be, and it will be for councillors to decide if the realignment, which was costed in 2005 and will cost much more than £4.7million, is more important than, say, the construction of new schools in Duns and West Linton or the transport interchange in Galashiels.”

Meanwhile, police are due to announce today a two-month Borders-wide operation to cut road accident casualties.

“Extra officers will be deployed for roadside vehicle checks and there will be a crackdown on speeding,” said the police spokesman.

“We will also be taking the road safety message into schools and reminding road users that we have a rural road network in the Borders and that special care must be exercised at all times.”

The initiative will also focus on 17-24-year-olds who represent about 10 per cent of driving licence holders in the Borders, but are involved in 18 per cent of all fatal/serious road crashes.