Safety on the Hill

You may have read about the horrific crash of a coach into two flats at the bottom of Muswell Hill (in August 2008). Thank goodness no-one died, but it could so easily have been a different story if the accident had taken place at a different time or if the mother and baby at home had been in a different room at the time of the crash. Not surprisingly – residents of the flats now want better safety measures on the road.

Ever since I started stomping around Muswell Hill before becoming a councillor for the area in 1998 I have been campaigning with local residents about the problems of speeding and danger on this mega-dangerous hill with its extremely steep gradient. We have had some successes along the way – but not enough to prevent this accident.

Some bollards were installed a few years ago and finally – after about eight years of campaigning – a speed camera was installed on Muswell Hill about fourteen months ago, and anti-skid finish was also applied to the road surface.

This accident was caused by a coach going uphill, running out of petrol and being advised by the police to free wheel back down the hill. The vehicle went out of control, careered over the pavement – sweeping a bollard out of the way – and hit the flats.

So I arranged a meeting with the council and residents of the flats to try and get proper action taken to protect them from further carnage.

So – about six residents of the flats and two council officers (a head of traffic policy and an engineer) met with me on site. First question was – what more could be done to prevent vehicles going out of control?

The anti-skid surface that was applied last year apparently hasn’t taken and is deemed to have ‘failed’ – so the contractor will be obliged to come back and redo that job. The officers will also look at all sorts of records to establish causality – so that they can come back with proposals to improve the engineering to prevent it happening. No doubt the speed camera will have helped a bit – but clearly not enough.

The second thing they will consider is what measures can be taken to improve the safety should something go wrong and a vehicle go out of control? The hill and the camber make it virtually certain that under those conditions it is the bottom of the hill residences that are in line of fire.

So – we now wait for Haringey Council to assess the record and come back with proposals. It was a good meeting – and whilst passions are high – I felt that it was a positive meeting.

It may be that the funding for any improvements will come from Transport for London – in which case I have offered to nag at the highest level. But it may be that it will come out of Haringey budget. We will have to wait and see.

(c) Lynne Featherstone, 2008