A transporter carrying wind turbine parts which crashed in rural Northumberland was following a new “safe” route sanctioned only 12 days before, it emerged yesterday.
Highways and transport experts decided abnormal loads carrying turbine components to the Green Rigg wind farm site near Ridsdale should travel north on the A696 then turn back onto the A68 south of Otterburn.
A test drive had revealed that large transporters “grounded” – scraped their undercarriages – on the switchback brows of the A68 further south.
The decision to use the alternative route was made under delegated county council powers on May 16.
But early on Monday the 100-tonne transporter came off the road near Ravenscleugh Farm, toppling into the roadside ditch.
Locals say the A696 has its own numerous hazards, with steep inclines and tight bends in parts. Northumberland County Council said last night: “The original environmental statement and approved traffic management plan stated that all construction traffic would be routed from the A68 and would approach Green Rigg from the south.
“The company did a trial run of this route for abnormal loads and this identified a number of points where grounding of vehicles could be a problem.
“An alternative route was therefore identified and discussed with the Highways Agency and our Highways team. This involved travelling north along the A696 then crossing to the A68 to travel south to the site.
“This amendment was approved on 16 May. It only applies to abnormal loads, not to all traffic.”
Tony Patrick of the Middle Hill Action Group, which is fighting wind farm plans at Elsdon, said: “My understanding was definitely that they travelled north to the Green Rigg site on the A68. It just seems madness to go on this route. If it had negotiated this bend OK, there are other tight bends.”
With the road now likely to remain closed at the scene of the accident until Friday for recovery and repairs, long diversions are in place.
A crane platform has to be built and part of a fence at Ravenscleugh Farm may be removed to allow 600 tonnes of hardcore to be set as a foundation.
Robert Newton, a design company director who was driving behind the slow-moving convoy at 6am, said: “The rear bogey of the second wagon turned hard left for no obvious reason and the inside wheels went off the road surface and onto the grass embankment so the vehicle tipped.
“As the centre of mass then went past the outside point of contact of the tyres, the vehicle toppled over. Anything other than an embankment there – a pavement, flat verge or cutting – and the driver would have possibly caught it.
“I just slammed my brakes on as soon as I saw what was happening. The driver didn’t seem to be injured and I saw him afterwards sitting on the ground at the front.”
Nearby resident Richard Simmance, also of the Middle Hill Action group, said last night: “There are very many bends on the A696 in this area, including a very sharp one at the bottom of the hill and a right-angle bend at Monkridge Hall.
“The A68 has fewer bends, but clearly they cannot drive these large transporters over the rises and falls of the A68. This reinforces my view that none of these roads are appropriate for such large transports.”
No one was available for comment at McFadyen’s Transport of Campbeltown, Argyll, who own the crashed transporter.
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