Friday, 20 July 2018

Commercial satnavs should be compulsory

A FRESH call has been made for lorries to use commercial satellite navigation systems after three

A FRESH call has been made for lorries to use commercial satellite navigation systems after three blocked Whitchurch high street in as many weeks.

Kevin Bulmer, who represents the village on Oxfordshire County Council, says a change in the law is the only way to keep heavy goods vehicles off inappropriate roads.

In June, the council unanimously supported his call for the Government to ban lorry drivers from using only domestic satnavs.

Now Councillor Bulmer has asked Henley MP John Howell to pursue this demand with the Department for  Transport.

It follows the three incidents last month in which lorries drove south from Woodcote intending to cross the River Thames at Whitchurch toll bridge even though this is forbidden as the village high street has a 7.5-tonne weight limit designed to reduce air pollution.

Lorries also couldn’t pass the narrow railway bridge at Pangbourne on the other side of the toll bridge. The incidents were as follows:

• On October 9 a lorry owned by Goggins Transport, of Liverpool, was advised to turn around at the toll booths. The driver, understood to be a Polish national, backed up and tried to perform a three-point turn in nearby Eastfield Lane but could not do it.Police had to close High Street and complete the manoeuvre for him, which took 90 minutes. The driver was fined for breaching the weight limit.

• Two weeks later another lorry got stuck at the toll booths and turned around on the bridge’s approach road. While manoeuvring, the driver clipped the village sign and tore it out of the pavement so that it will have to be replaced.

• A few days later a lorry was small enough to cross the bridge and turn around in the Boathouse surgery car park in Pangbourne but still caused delays.

Councillor Bulmer said: “The Government needs to take my proposal more seriously. So far there’s been little enthusiasm for it.

“It wouldn’t just help Oxfordshire but small villages and market towns all over the country that suffer with this problem.

“Many lorry drivers that get stuck in Whitchurch have just seen a crossing on their satnav and not realised that it isn’t suitable. The police don’t always have to come out but there’s invariably a degree of disruption whenever it  happens.”

Whitchurch Parish Council supports Cllr Bulmer and wants more prominent signage at the turn-off to Whitchurch at Crays Pond.

Chairman Keith Brooks said: “The problem seems to have got worse recently. It causes a lot of disruption and it must be very expensive for the police so we support anything that is going to resolve it.”

He said some lorry drivers got lost after missing the entrance to the Castrol research laboratory in Whitchurch Hill.

The company is said to be willing to provide more signage and will discuss this with the county council.

Mr Howell said he might put forward a private member’s bill endorsing Cllr Bulmer’s proposal. “I’m currently discussing the situation with several major hauliers,” he said. “Once those talks are finished I will be better placed to take the appropriate action.”

Unlike domestic satnavs, commercial models know the weight limits on every road and will not send lorry drivers on unsuitable routes. They will also warn a driver if they are about to enter an area where restrictions apply.

Every year there are dozens of reported incidents in which lorry drivers have caused severe disruption by using satnav systems meant for cars.

Last year a village lane in Wiltshire was blocked for three days after a 40ft petrol tanker became wedged on a bend. It had to be drained before it could be moved.

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