THE department responsible for Barnsley’s 750-mile road network has reiterated its commitment to making the town’s accident blackspots safer - after coming under more fire from road safety campaigners.

Barnsley Council’s highways team is set to compile a list of roads earmarked for improvement works during the next financial year after carrying out engineering measures at its worst-hit spots including Copster Lane, Oxspring, Pontefract Road, Lundwood and Laithes Lane, Athersley.

Campaigners on Burton Road, Monk Bretton, Birthwaite Hill, Darton and Sandy Bridge Lane, Shafton, have all been unsuccessful in achieving anti-speeding measures and criticised the council for ‘only acting when there’s a fatality’.

However, the council says a perceived high crash rate on each road is predominately down to driver error, according to official figures, and its engineers are ‘powerless’ to stop that.

Matthew Bell, head of highways engineering at the council, said: “Our road network covers a distance which is the equivalent of a journey from here to Switzerland and it continues to grow with the addition of new housing. It’s the council’s most valuable asset so we do take it very seriously.

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“It’s our responsibility to make the network as safe as possible for all users and a lot has been said about a so-called ‘worst-first’ list. It’s not actually one list, it’s several, and they’re based on personal injury data from collisions deemed slight, serious or fatal compiled by the police.

“To say that we only take action when there’s a fatality is simply not true. We’re aware of areas of Barnsley where there’s complaints about specific roads, such as Birthwaite Hill and Sandy Bridge Lane.

“We are not saying accidents don’t occur at these locations but the data, which is continually checked, suggests there are worse roads in the borough which require our attention first.”

A total of 608 collisions were recorded across the town last year, down by 15 per cent on the previous year, while Barnsley is averaging six road deaths per year over the last three years.

Copster Lane, which was placed at the top of the council’s to-do list due to having the highest rate of collisions classed as serious, has been ridded of some of its trees which were hampering drivers’ visibility.

“On any road there’s a small minority of drivers who choose to drive beyond the limit and in some cases beyond their own ability,” Matthew added.

“The vast majority of road users stick to the safe limit, but those who do not make it very difficult for us as we cannot control their behaviour when they’re behind the wheel.

“The underlying cause on Burton Road, for example, has been driver error. Figures show there’s been four collisions in four years - all of which were down to driver error whether it’s been speeding, drink or drug driving. That’s a police issue and it’s something we can’t factor in from an engineering point of view.”

Birthwaite Hill, which is off the M1 at junction 38, has recently been resurfaced and some of its ‘confusing’ signs have been removed, while others will be repositioned.

“There was a clear issue with the surface, which was identified as part of our annual condition survey, as the route is a busy gateway from the motorway to the town centre.” Matthew said. “A high-friction material will be added to help drivers, especially on the downhill left-hand bend, as there have been three collisions in four years, with one fatality in 2017.

“A speed survey told us 95 per cent of motorists were travelling at 35mph or below and it is a 50mph limit, so there’s a clear need to raise awareness through education and that’s something we’re also carrying out in schools and colleges across the town to drill in the importance of road safety.

“Last year our safe and active travel programmes were delivered to 6,500 students and young drivers across the borough.”

Dave North, chairman of Shafton Parish Council, told the Chronicle that it was imperative that remedial works were carried out on Sandy Bridge Lane - before it’s too late.

“It’s been going on for years but we’re still witnessing crashes in the village,” he added.

“It’s been resurfaced recently but we’re in desperate need for more work to be done, whether it’s more signage or chevrons, to make it safer.

“Further up the road, when you cross the border into West Yorkshire, it’s completely different as there’s masses of signs warning people to slow down.

“We can’t keep waiting and hoping there isn’t a fatality before we act.”