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25 years on: Is it still ‘Traffic before People’ on the A540 in Neston?

Road safety campaigners have vowed to work collaboratively to prevent more deaths and serious injuries on the A540 in Neston. They met at Neston High School on Saturday (June 22) to remember Andrew Fielding, who was a pupil at the school, and who died in a crash at the junction of the A540 and Raby Park Road twenty-five years ago. The commemoration event was opened by the Mayor of Neston Cllr Dominic Roberts, who pledged continued support for the campaign and extended sympathy to the Fielding family on behalf of the town’s residents. He considered that all interested parties needed to ‘redouble their efforts, remember Andrew Fielding, and prevent any further tragedies on this stretch of road.’ 

The long campaign has been led by Andrew’s mother, Pauline Fielding, who spoke movingly about her ‘smiling and loving’ son who was 18 when he was killed driving to a football tournament. The driver who caused the crash left the scene and was never traced. Mrs Fielding, a trustee and North-West local group coordinator for RoadPeace, the national charity for road crash victims, has campaigned tirelessly since Andrew’s death to reduce dangers on the road and in particular changes to the junction where he died. She outlined the slow progress so far, especially the refusal of government to include the A540 in the Major Road Network and warned of the dangers of continued delay. She saw some light at the end of the tunnel after a meeting with Cheshire West and Chester (CWaC) Council in January 2019 when they committed the Council to getting a major scheme for the A540

prepared pending funding. But she said ‘much, much more’ was needed: ‘We need to work with the council now to turn plans into concrete actions that will save lives’.

She was followed by Justin Madders, MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, who pledged to bring up the issue of road safety at the junction in Parliament at every opportunity. The current and former headteachers of the school underlined the importance of improvements to the A540 for the safety of pupils. Current head Keith Simpson said that staff and parents will not use the junction, and young people will not cross the road; and he urged action: ‘before anyone else gets a phone call that changes lives forever’ as the Fielding family had in 1994.

His points were reinforced by parents, who told the meeting that they cannot allow their children to walk to school because of the absence of a safe crossing of the highway. They also wanted the environmental aspect of the road to be tested through a new vehicle emission survey. ‘Traffic is being given priority over people,’ claimed Ms Moore, one of the parents who spoke. She added that there were large volumes of heavy goods vehicles travelling along the road to the Aldi distribution centre in Neston and claimed that the A540 and its side roads had become a ‘rat run for supercars and superbikes’ each evening. The parents questioned the surveys of the junction at Raby Park Road because they did not take account of the many people who avoided the junction altogether because of its manifest dangers.

The event was essentially commemorative, but participants were keen to share their knowledge and information and coordinate their actions through the formation of a group that combines the efforts of the Fielding family, campaigners for safer routes to school, the Quarry Road residents, and Neston Town Council. This group will convene shortly, energised by this event and the expressions of support from politicians; the local politicians having included the A540 improvements in their successful manifestos at the recent elections. All those involved are determined to bring the campaign to a successful conclusion however long it takes.

Cheshire West and Chester Council's Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Environment, Highways and Strategic Transport, Councillor Karen Shore said: "Chairman of our Council, Bob Rudd, attended the special commemorative event organised by Mr and Mrs Fielding to remember their son Andrew, who tragically died on the A540 Chester High Road at its junction with Raby Park Road 25 years ago.

"The Council is committed to maintaining and improving highway safety for all roads users and has met with Mr and Mrs Fielding and agreed to explore potential options at the junction. A planned junction improvement scheme that will improve existing signage and road markings is currently being designed and anticipated to be complete by the end of the year.

"We are also looking into more options going forward. Once we have completed this work, we will be in a position to identify a preferred solution and the Council, working with its partners, will explore funding opportunities to make our shared goal possible."

If you want further information on the campaign, please contact Pauline Fielding, 0151 342 6381 or 07703 357504 or pauline.fielding@btopenworld.com

More information on RoadPeace is available at: http://www.roadpeace.org/

More information on the Major Road Network is available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_Road_Network

Remembering Andrew Fielding are (left to right) Cllr Bob Rudd (Chair of Cheshire West and Chester Council -CWaC), Justin Madders MP, Cllr Martin Barker (CWaC), David and Pauline Fielding, Keith Simpson (Head of Neston High School), Ceri and Phil Lloyd (co-organisers of the event)