Shropshire motorists put faith in brakes as escape lane reaches end of road

Highways chiefs in Shropshire are scrapping a run-off road designed to protect drivers whose brakes fail – because modern cars have made it unnecessary.

The sand trap on Hopton Bank, near Hopton Wafers, on the A4177, which is being removed as it is not now needed
The sand trap on Hopton Bank, near Hopton Wafers, on the A4177, which is being removed as it is not now needed

In fact, the escape lane on a steep hill at Hopton Bank, in Hopton Wafers, is now considered to be a danger to drivers.

It is the last emergency escape lane left in Britain, but Shropshire Council is doing away with the sand-filled trap as, officials say, advances in motor engineering, particularly safer brakes, have made it redundant.

The run-off lane was built more than 30 years ago to ease any problems on the mile-long hill on the main A4177 Kidderminster to Ludlow road, which drops 500ft from the top of Clee Hill to Hopton Wafers.

The idea was that, if vehicles suffered brake failure, they could steer into the escape lane at the bottom. Tons of gravel-like sand would stop the vehicles and prevent them ploughing into a row of cottages or into a narrow bridge on a sharp bend.

Derek Bytheway, a member of Hopton Wafers Parish Council, said such emergency lanes used to be common across the country years ago. He added: “In those days, vehicles were nothing like as mechanically reliable as they are today. I have lived in Hopton Wafters for 61 years and I can’t recall there having been an incident of a runaway vehicle on Hopton Bank since the escape lane was provided.” Councillor Bytheway said it had created a road safety hazard in itself.

He said: “During heavy rain, water pours down the  hill and ends up in the escape lane, washing out  aggregate on the road surface. Motorists driving over it have reported momentary loss of steering control.”