Council’s response to the Coroner falls short of confirming they will act to make Downs Link crossing safe

For over ten years local residents and representatives of the different user groups have highlighted the dangers of the Downs Link crossing of the A281 near Rudgwick.

The former railway bridge across the road was dismantled in the 1960s and ever since the Downs Link was opened in the 1980s users have had to take their life into their hands to cross the road. Last July the inevitable happened when Pathushan Sutharsan was killed by an HGV as he attempted to cross the road on his bike.

Following the inquest into Pathushan’s death the Coroner took the extraordinary step of requesting that West Sussex County Council report back on what action they will be taking to make the crossing safe.

The dangerous A281 crossing on the Downs Link

In their response to the Coroner, WSCC say they have implemented “remedial measures” following Pathushan’s death. The Coroner has already given her opinion on these measures in her report:

“Whilst it was accepted that West Sussex County Council had, following Pathushan’s death, made significant improvements to the junction between the Downs link and the A281 evidence was heard from a number of different organisations (speaking on behalf of all the different users of the Downs link) that the junction in question still posed a substantial risk for cyclists, pedestrians and equestrians alike.”

For WSCC to repeat that these measures “will mitigate the risk of a similar collision” fails to respond adequately to the Coroner’s stated opinion that – despite these initial measures being taken – “there is a risk that future deaths will occur unless action is taken”.

The Coroner is absolutely clear that without further action being taken by WSCC a “significant risk to the users of this junction remains”.

In addressing WSCC the Coroner says that “action should be taken to prevent future deaths and I believe your organisation have the power to take such action”. WSCC have not given details of what action they will take to address the source of the problem (the lack of a bridge crossing), only that a feasibility study will be carried out, which if an “appropriate” solution can be found may result in its “potential inclusion” in a future program of works.

WSCC were under a duty to respond, and that response “must contain details of action taken or proposed to be taken, setting out the timetable for action”.

In her report the Coroner notes that WSCC will be undertaking a feasibility study into the issues at the junction but concludes that with “no definitive plans in place to take this forward…the significant risk to the users of this junction remains”.

Until such time as the permanent solution of a bridge can be installed there is an urgent need for temporary safety measures to be put in place, such as a reduced speed limit or temporary traffic lights on the A281.

A grassroots community action group “Bridge the Downs Link” has been formed in response to this avoidable tragedy and are calling on West Sussex County Council to make the route safe for walkers, cyclists and horse-riders by reinstating a bridge across the road.

The cycle forum – along with Rudgwick Parish Council, the Rudgwick Preservation Society, the British Horse Society, the West Sussex Cycle Forum and many others – is proud to support this initiative.

More information can be found on their Facebook page.

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