U-turn will lead to lower speed limit at accident blackspot

Caerlee Corner accident on December 18, 2015,  in which an 81-year-old man and 48-year-old woman were hurt
Caerlee Corner accident on December 18, 2015, in which an 81-year-old man and 48-year-old woman were hurt

Council chiefs and police officers have done a U-turn and agreed to rethink their previous refusal to bring in a 40mph speed limit at an accident blackspot on the A72 on the outskirts of Innerleithen.

Scottish Borders Council’s Tweeddale area forum has agreed that a speed limit would be the best way to reduce the number of drivers losing control of vehicles while negotiating Caerlee Corner, just beyond the existing 30mph limit to the west of the Peeblesshire town.

Described as “three bends within a bend” by the council’s road network manager, Brian Young, at last week’s forum meeting in West Linton, the site was the scene of three incidents resulting in injury in 2013.

One consisted of a motorcyclist skidding off the road, and two involved car drivers crossing the centre line and colliding with oncoming vehicles.

Despite improved signage and the repainting of a safety barrier at the corner, a further four accidents resulting in injury were reported in 2014, three of them involving eastbound drivers heading into the town.

After a further two accidents in 2015, an extension of the 30mph limit to include the corner and its western approach was considered but rejected by both council officers and Police Scotland.

The police objected on the basis that there was no suitable location for their traffic team to enforce the speed sanction from.

In response to repeated calls for action from Innerleithen, Traquair and Glen Community Council and all three Tweeddale East councillors on Scottish Borders Council – Stuart Bell, Graham Garvie and Gavin Logan – it was agreed to review that decision.

“A reassessment has now taken place,” said Mr Young.

“Following considerable discussion, it was agreed that a case could be made, supported by Police Scotland and council officers, for a 40mph buffer zone starting before the initial bend.

“Further work has been undertaken on the surface quality and skid resistance of the road, and this is currently being analysed.

“There is an additional local concern that errant vehicles tend to end up on the outside of the bend, potentially coming into conflict with an informal but well-used local path immediately adjacent to the road.

“Council officers have drawn up alternative schemes to divert this path away from the road.”

The forum unanimously agreed that the process, involving statutory public consultation, of introducing a traffic regulation order to permit the 40mph extension should go ahead, although Mr Young cautioned: “Amending an existing speed limit is a lengthy and legally protracted one that can typically take up to a year to be implemented.”

Mr Bell, a long-time campaigner for a lower speed limit at Caerlee Corner, said: “It’s fabulous that at last we are making progress on what the public have long demanded – an extension of the speed limit on the west of Innerleithen to slow vehicles coming into the town.

“Officers were reluctant to make a change as they saw this as exceptional, but the succession of single-vehicle accidents has equally been exceptional, so I am glad that, at last, steps to improve safety have been initiated.”