Dual the A5 campaign: It's time to get this Shropshire road sorted

When Thomas Telford built his Holyhead Road 200 years ago little did he think that, two centuries and later renamed the A5, it would carry tens of thousands of vehicles every day.

The A5
The A5

Civic leaders, transport experts and resident think enough is enough and it is high time that the road was improved to a standard capable of carrying the increasing volume of traffic that uses the route every day.

Telford’s road was originally created to improve communication links between London and Dublin following the Act of Union in 1800 and at the time was used mainly by stagecoaches and the Mail coach to carry post between London and Holyhead, and on by mailboat to Ireland.

It was dotted by tollhouses at which road users would pay a sum of money dependent on what they were carrying. At each mile stood a distinctive milestone.

The A5

Wind forward and the A5 is unrecognisable. It is snarled up with traffic. The stagecoaches have been replaced by thousands upon thousands of cars, buses and luxury coaches, while almost all of the goods that in Telford’s day were carried on the canal, and then the railways, travel in massive lorries.

It also carries every other vehicle imaginable from white vans to tractors as well as motorbikes and cyclists.

The section through Shropshire is the only part that remains part of the original link between Ireland and Britain. And it is now also part of the strategic route linking Ireland with mainland Europe through the Trans-European Highway.

The section from Montford Bridge to the Welsh border, is also the only section that is single and not dual carriageway or motorway.

The A5 north of Shrewsbury is also a road with shocking accident statistics.

Since 1991, there have been more than 1,785 casualties on the stretch from Montford Bridge up to the Welsh border at Chirk.

And with more accidents happening every week figures are increasing all the time.

The A5
The A5

At the last count, 1,407 of those injured suffered slight injury, 320 were serious and, tragically, 58 were fatal. That is more than two deaths for each of the past 26 years.

Every accident however serious or slight brings upset and inconvenience to all those involved while the most serious are life changing.

They lead to road closures and diversions that mean thousands of vehicles trundle through villages and along B-roads and lanes ill equipped to deal with the volume.

Shropshire Council’s deputy leader, Councillor Steve Charmley travels the road several times a week whether in his role on the unitary authority on in his personal life.

“I am back and to on the A5 all the time and it is always a challenge. The time it takes to make the journey between Oswestry and Shrewsbury is always different and depends on the time of day and day of the week.

“This week we have seen the potato harvest in full swing on farms alongside the road.

“That can mean getting stuck behind large agricultural vehicles and can lead to frustration among motorists. And that can be where the problems begin.

“It is time the road was dualled from Shrewsbury to Ruabon, the only stretch of the route from London to Holyhead that is still single-carriageway.”

The A5

Councillor Charmley was said he was pleased to back the Shropshire Star’s campaign.

“I am delighted the Star has taken the lead in pressing for improvements following up on Owen Paterson’s ongoing campaign,” he said.

“This will not only keep up the pressure, on the front pages but also on the minister’s desk and flagged up to Highways England.”

“We need this road dualled to help our economy.

“The amount of traffic on it has grown so much in the last 25 years that it is no longer fit for purpose.”

This summer has seen some of the worst congestion on the road in its history.

Holidaymakers travelling to the Welsh coast added to the day-to-day traffic with the worst hold-ups on the Oswestry and Chirk bypasses where the A5 meets with a second trunk road the A483.

Friday evenings regularly saw queues of up to five miles long crawling along the A5/A483, lorries drivers trying to get to their depots before their driving time ran out, holidaymakers including those with Holyhead to Dublin ferries to catch, and commuters at the end of their working week.

Not one but two roads ministers have visited the A5 in the last 12 months, invited by North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson.

On both days meetings were held so that representatives of the community could explain the problems the road brings. The ministers heard from businesses, haulage companies, farmers and 999 services, all of whom are affected on a daily basis.

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