Crashes near tunnel ‘have no clear link’

A map showing the location and seriousness of accidents in the Southwick Tunnel area
A map showing the location and seriousness of accidents in the Southwick Tunnel area

EXPERTS say there is no obvious link between accidents near the Southwick Tunnel, despite the high number.

Highways Agency manager Peter Phillips met with East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton and Adur Council leader Neil Parkin at the end of January to discuss the large number of accidents on the A27 near the tunnel.

They looked at the number of incidents, locations and possible reasons.

Mr Phillips explained the history of accidents on the busy stretch and said there was no obvious linking reason why so many accidents happen there.

Mr Loughton said: “The A27 is never far from the news. There were approximately eight accidents near the tunnel in 2013 alone.”

He said residents had emailed him with their take on the spate of accidents in the vicinity of Southwick Tunnel.

“There is clearly something wrong with this section of the A27, which poses a safety risk to motorists. There has been an extraordinary amount of incidents near the tunnel over the last few years.”

Both he and Mr Parkin were concerned about the frequency of serious accidents near the tunnel, which prompted the meeting to discuss the possibility of research into common causes.

“Clearly, the most important consideration is that this has caused injuries and, in some cases, fatalities but also significant traffic disruption every time it happens,” added Mr Loughton.

The Highways Agency has been working closely with Sussex Police, who will be publishing a report on the finer details of the most recent accidents. This will help with deciding the best course of action.

Research so far has revealed very few accidents happen in the tunnel itself, most are on the bends of the approaches.

There is no pattern in driver age, with those involved ranging from 22 to 70, although most are in the 30 to 50 age range.

Accidents involve mostly cars, with fewer than 15 per cent involving HGVs or motorcycles.

The Highways Agency said the majority of accidents involved single vehicles losing control and more than 80 per cent of accidents were in daylight.

Wet weather featured in 65 per cent of accidents and 54 per cent occurred on commuter journeys, with an even spread over week days. However, the increase in accidents during peak hears was not as high a percentage as the increase in traffic.

More than 90 per cent of drivers involved in accidents lived in Sussex and were considered to be familiar with the road.

Mr Loughton said some preventative measures were discussed at the meeting, including speed restrictions and high-profile signs warning motorists to take extra care due to the number of incidents over the past few years.

It was agreed the likelihood of accidents would be lower if drivers kept their speed more under control.

Mr Loughton will visit Southwick Tunnel when it is closed for routine maintenance and will meet the Highways Agency again, once the police report has been published, to discuss what action can be taken.