Dave Thompson, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch has been given a road safety award in recognition of his campaign to improve level crossings and the A830.
Mr Thompson has been awarded a Road Safety Parliamentarian of the Month Award by the charity Brake and Direct Line for his work campaigning for barriers on level crossings and improvements to the A830 ‘road to the isles’.
After a crash in 2009 that claimed three lives on a level crossing where there were no barriers, Dave Thompson began a campaign to have barriers put in at all 23 open level crossings in Scotland – of which 21 were in the Highlands.
He collected more than 1,400 responses from concerned constituents in a consultation on level crossings he ran after the crash.
He launched a high-profile media campaign, giving dozens of interviews to highlight the problem and put pressure on Network Rail to upgrade the crossings.
His campaign led to a trial of a new type of barrier at Ardrossan. After the trial was a success, Network Rail agreed to build the more effective and cheaper barriers at open level crossings across the UK, starting in Scotland.
In answer to a question in the Scottish Parliament, Mr Thompson received confirmation that the first four barriers will be put up at Corpach, Kirkton, Brora, and Dalcham; and that crossings will be in place across the Highlands by the end of 2014.
As well as his level crossing campaign, Dave has been working to improve a notorious stretch of the A830 ‘road to the isles’.
In September 2010 John and Jan Bryden lost their daughter Kirsty Bryden, 19, in a horrific crash on the A830.
Her 17 year old friend who was travelling with her was also killed.
Jan and John began to note the number of crashes on the road, which runs just outside their house, hoping to get the local authorities to improve the road between Glenfinnan and Lochailort. They recorded 309 crashes on the four-mile stretch in the two years since their daughter was killed – and demanded works to improve safety.
Dave Thompson supported the Bryden’s campaign by contacting Transport Scotland and demanding improvements to this section of the A830.
Shortly afterwards, a state of the art crash barrier was installed on the corner where Kirsty had died, helping to stop drivers from coming off the road and into the loch as she had done.
Dave continued to push Transport Scotland to make further improvements, holding 10 meetings and phone-meetings with the agency, speaking out in the media and organising and chairing two public meetings to collect constituent views.
In October 2012 Transport for Scotland agreed to resurface the most dangerous corners with high-friction surfacing, limit speed to 50mph on the Glenfinnan-Lochailort stretch, add signs to highlight severe bends, and add more and better crash barriers.
The MSP has announced he is pleased with the success of both campaigns, and that he will be watching closely to ensure promised improvements are delivered.
Julie Townsend, Brake deputy chief executive, says: ‘As a charity that supports people who are bereaved or seriously injured in road crashes, we know the appalling devastation these crashes cause, and the importance of battling to prevent further tragedies.
‘Simple, often relatively low-cost, engineering measures like barriers and lower speed limits can make a huge difference to safety and stop more families suffering needlessly, and often it takes campaigns by communities, families and MPs to bring these vital changes about.
‘Dave has worked tirelessly on behalf of the people of the Highlands, and Skye, Lochaber, and Badenoch to improve road safety, and he has achieved impressive results. We congratulate Dave on his campaign successes and are delighted to present him with this award.’
Dave Thompson says: ‘The loss of Kirsty Bryden and Roderick MacInnes on a bad bend on the A830 back in September 2010 was tragic; and since then I have worked with John and Jan Bryden, who have done a power of work, to press for improvements to the road.
‘Transport Scotland have met with the local community on several occasions, and have been able to make substantial improvements to the road, and I hope that these improvements will mean no other family will have to experience what the Brydens and Macinnes families have gone through.
‘I am also pleased that through working with Network Rail, we have been able to secure a commitment to deliver barriers to all Open Level Crossings, not just in my constituency but throughout the UK.
‘It is an honour to be named as Road Safety Parliamentarian of the Month by Brake and Direct Line, and I will continue to do all I can to improve road safety in my constituency, and across Scotland.’
This is persistent exemplary work of Mr Thompson’s – demonstrating what a good MSP can do, if he is prepared to take on the hard yards. His parallel campaigns have shown – on the separate success, just what can be done.