Safety review follows double fatality on Normanby bridge

JO MOIR
Last updated 14:40 05/12/2012

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LATEST: There is no satisfaction in the death of two Taranaki motorcyclists sparking a review of the notorious Normanby overbridge, Whanganui MP Chester Borrows says.

The safety issues at the bridge and its approaches were predictable and flagged to the New Zealand Transport Agency months ago, he said.

NZTA regional state highways manager David McGonigal said the Normanby review announced yesterday would help determine whether any further measures needed to be taken to make the road safer. 

It was only last month that NZTA approved plans to upgrade New Plymouth's Waiwhakaiho bottleneck ahead of plans for a previously planned realignment of the Normanby overbridge.

''When the project to realign the Normanby overbridge was deferred in the road management plan I made it very clear to NZTA that more fatalities would follow,'' Mr Borrows said.

''I am very sorry that they did not listen and there is no satisfaction in being proved right.''Proposed road markings, signage and surfaces won't fix the obvious hazards in the area, he said.

''I won't be happy until I see the realignment complete and a much safer roadway being used.''

The area where Saturday's crash occurred is known as a ''black spot'' by locals.

''We may be emotive about these things but we are the ones cleaning up the mess and dealing with the grief - we're allowed to be emotive,'' Mr Borrows said.

Safety review follows double fatality

Saturday's double fatality near South Taranaki's notorious Normanby overbridge has sparked an immediate safety review.

The New Zealand Transport Agency announced an "independent and immediate" review, citing concerns about Saturday's crash that killed two motorcyclists.

Two men taking part in the annual Round the Mountain Toy Run died when their bikes and a van collided on the approach to the bridge.

South Taranaki Mayor Ross Dunlop said the review was a step in the right direction but he also acknowledged it had come a little late in the day.

"Of course it's a bit late but it doesn't mean we shouldn't support and proceed with it," he said.

The suggestion from police in yesterday's Daily News that drivers are at fault for all crashes doesn't sit with Mr Dunlop.

"It seems more than just drivers are at fault and that stretch of road is clearly dangerous.

"You can't deny that the road and crashes are linked and that's frustrating and sad," he said.

If the Normanby realignment project had gone ahead years ago, as planned, the areas where these crashes were happening would have been "done away with" by now, he said. Another South Taranaki campaigner for a safer Normanby overbridge is councillor Andy Beccard who wants to know when the deaths are going to stop.

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He would also rather the work be done at Normanby than more money spent reviewing the problem.

"We already know it's a problem area and what needs to be done, so save the money that will be spent on the consultant and just fix the problem," he said.

NZTA regional state highways manager David McGonigal said the Normanby review would help determine whether any further measures needed to be taken to make the road safer.

It was only last month that NZTA approved plans to upgrade New Plymouth's Waiwhakaiho bottleneck ahead of plans for a previously planned realignment of the Normanby overbridge.

Taranaki rural area commander Inspector Frank Grant said it was possible the realignment plans could have stopped some of the crashes in the area.

"The frustration for us is more about the number of crashes and the different causes, though," he said. "The ironic thing is we were at Normanby bridge today handing out notices telling people about work being done in the area over the next three nights."

Mr Grant said within an hour of being there police fined a handful of drivers travelling on the bridge at more than 10kmh over the limit.

Despite the campaigns, he said, the message still wasn't getting through to many.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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