Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Text Size

The M5 crash

"There was a sombre mood in the House of Commons on Monday as the new Secretary of State for Transport Justine Greening made a statement on Friday’s horrific crash on the M5 in Somerset, the worst in our county’s history," writes David Heath MP. "All the Somerset MPs were there to hear her report of the events of the night, although Jeremy Browne, the MP for Taunton, and I were precluded by our ministerial positions from asking questions.

"What was quite clear is that an awful accident had, as is so often the case, brought out the best in people. Not only our police, fire and rescue, and ambulance services, and the staff of Musgrove Park and Yeovil District hospitals, some of whom had come in on their days off to help deal with casualties, but also ordinary people who just happened to be on the road at the time and caught up in the maelstrom, some of whom made heroic efforts to try to rescue those trapped in their vehicles and threatened by the searing heat of fires. We owe a huge debt to all who helped, and we should recognise how important they are in times of emergency. By all accounts, the uniformed services performed superbly.

"Of course, many now will be mourning losses or worrying over injured family or friends. The sheer scale is huge; thirty seven vehicles involved, seven fatalities, and fifty one injured. There is little that one can say to the bereaved under such circumstances, but perhaps we should also say a small thank you to the police liaison officers who are often the first to break unhappy news and offer comfort to shocked families.

"What is clear is that inquiries into the causes of the accident will take some time, and no-one should leap to any conclusions about contributory factors. If there are lessons about road safety, then I hope we will learn them. Motorway driving is statistically rather safer than on many other roads, but we all know that many drive irresponsibly, not necessarily because of excessive speed, but by not leaving safe braking distances, unexpected lane changes and other examples of bad practice. None of those factors may be implicated in this accident, but if there are ways of making sure people understand that the margins of error are tight then maybe we can avoid similar events in future.

"Lastly, there may be a lesson to learn about our local infrastructure. The closure of the M5 following the pile-up meant the principal arterial route to the south west was out of action, and yet for years both central and local government have failed to recognise the need to improve, in safety terms if nothing else, the second strategic route which is the forgotten A303. I don’t want a similar tragedy in Somerset again as a result of failure to deal with the basic design of a road carrying too much traffic for its capacity. I spoke to Transport ministers again about my concerns on Monday, and I would like to think that I would now have the support of the county councils in the south west to get something done."

David in Parliament

TheyWorkForYou.com Search: speaker:David Heath
  • Points of Order (15 Mar 2012)
  • Traveller Sites (Dorset) (12 Mar 2012)
  • Traveller Sites (Dorset) (12 Mar 2012)
  • Oral Answers to Questions — Communities and Local Government: Localism Act 2011 (12 Mar 2012)
  • Oral Answers to Questions — Communities and Local Government: Localism Act 2011 (12 Mar 2012)

Published and promoted by Mike Bell on behalf of David Heath (Liberal Democrats) both at Church Hill House, 17 Bath Street, Frome, BA11 1DN.
Printed and hosted by Fasthosts Internet Ltd, Discovery House, 154 Southgate Street, Gloucester, GL1 2EX.