An eye witness to a two-car accident outside Cuadrilla’s fracking site near Blackpool this morning said a truck preparing to make a delivery was breaking agreed traffic rules.
John Tootill, whose basic account of the accident has been confirmed by police, said a cement truck had stopped outside the Preston New Road site to turn right before two cars on the other side of the road collided.
Mr Tootill, who estimated he was about 20ft away, said:
“The truck, travelling from the Preston direction, indicated to turn right into the site which is against the agreed rules. It was in the middle of the road. I saw that and shouted to the security people and police that this was against the agreement.
“The security people were moving the fence to allow it in. But the police gesticulated to the security people that this should not happen. The security staff followed the police instruction and gestured to the concrete wagon that it should drive on.
“The next car travelling from the Blackpool direction saw all this gesticulating and stopped. The car behind ploughed into the back of it.”
Reports said there were children in both cars. The occupants were taken to hospital by ambulance. The cement truck carried on to the next roundabout, approached the site from the permitted direction and was escorted in by police.
The traffic management plan for the exploration site requires all heavy goods vehicles to turn left in and out of the site.
Mr Tootill, a local nursery owner who has displayed large posters against fracking, said:
“In my view it is a chain of events. It would not have happened if that concrete vehicle had not been there.
“This incident was entirely created by Cuadrilla and their failed traffic management plan.”
“This is not the first vehicle to go into the site from the wrong direction. Yesterday vehicles were turning right to leave the site even though there is a sign on the exit which says no right turn.”
Police are still investigating the cause of the accident.
A spokesperson for Cuadrilla said:
“I would strongly suggest that if Mr Toothill believes he witnessed the entire unfortunate accident between two private vehicles that he contacts the Police to give a proper statement.
“The traffic management system was not deployed as it can only operate from 9.30am to 3.30pm so the road was open as usual. The cement vehicle which was present was stationary and NOT involved the the traffic incident this morning.
“It was on the other side of the road and stationary at the time and never entered the East bound caraigeway where the accident happened. It did indeed travel from the East however it did not turn into our site and there was no breach of conditions and LCC are aware of this.
“We are aware there was a traffic incident involving two private vehicles this morning at approx. 8.40am outside of the entrance of our Preston New Road site. Neither vehicles are connected to the operations under way at our site. Police are conducting a thorough investigation which we are assisting with in any way we can.”
Lancashire County Council confirmed last month that some lorries visiting the site had not followed the agreed route. But it said the council would not be taking action against them. DrillOrDrop report
Mr Tootill said the accident could have been much worse.
“I was completely shocked and the police, who witnessed the smash, were also stunned. Our immediate concern was for the welfare of the occupants of the vehicles. Clearly the new cement contractor either ignored Cuadrilla’s traffic management plan, or deliberately chose to ignore it. Corners are cut so regularly and this is the result.
“This could have very easily been a fatality. I was surprised at how quickly the damaged vehicles were removed from the scene – normally there would be measurements of vehicles with an accident of this scale. ”
Preston New Road Action Group, which opposed Cuadrilla’s plans at a public inquiry, said:
“We are very concerned at the risk of accidents around this site. We highlighted this strongly at the planning inquiry. We indicated this is a very busy road, with regular fast-moving traffic. With road users now encountering many large and slow-moving vehicles turning and accessing the site, the risks have dramatically increased.
“The traffic management plan is meant to minimise or avoid risk. It will only do that if it followed to the letter. We await the full details on this matter. Our primary concern is now for the families affected and we wish to ensure no further accidents of this nature happen again. This road used to be an accident blackspot: we have no wish to see it return to that.”
Frack Free Lancashire has called on Lancashire County Council to take action to prevent more breaches of the traffic management plan.
Updated 18.32 with additional material from Cuadrilla.