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Fears of more crashes after tragedy

19 August 08 03:50 GMT

By Andrew Dawkins
BBC News, Alton

One man has died and 70 others were injured when a coach rolled down an embankment and overturned near Alton Towers theme park in Staffordshire.

BBC News spoke to villagers in Alton, where the crash happened, to get their reaction.

"People have been saying it's an accident that's been waiting to happen."

David Hughes, an Alton resident for about 30 years, voices the fears of neighbours about a crash like this in the village.

Living near to the cordoned-off bridge where the crash happened the 67-year-old reflected how he once had a lucky escape close to the scene.

"A coach came round the corner just completely on my side. (I) just didn't have a hope in hell so I just had to run into it," he said.

Fortunately it turned out to be just a "slight scrape", but he said some residents have been quick to say the crash shows large vehicles should be banned from coming through the village.

'Nasty bend'

"People'll say it takes something like this to make people realise how silly it is to bring all this heavy traffic through such a quiet country village," Mr Hughes added.

"You would hope it would kick people into some sort of action to get it changed or to have more traffic calming.

"Proposals have been made for alternative routes, but nothing's ever been built, despite years of campaigning by villagers."

Mr Hughes did acknowledge however, that there has not been a history of accidents on the cordoned-off bridge.

But he added there was "a very nasty bend" coming down from Alton Towers and it was supposed to be 30mph at the cordon "but people use it like a race track".

Just up a hill on a winding village road, concerns were echoed at The Bulls Head pub.

Janet Gibson, who runs the pub, has lived in the village for 25 years.

"It's great that [Alton Towers] is successful, but unfortunately the roads haven't changed to match," she said.

"It's lovely to keep the quaintness of the village. I wouldn't like to see anything widened.

"I think it's more of an answer where they could possibly try and find a way to take the bigger vehicles on a different route maybe."

She believed the tragedy would "stir a few things up" locally and explained "coaches gridlock nearly every day through the height of season" in the village.

'Roads can't cope'

"I am shocked that something has happened there, because in the past it's been normally somewhere on the bank here (further into the village) where it's tighter and windier," she said.

"Usually through the season there's a couple of knocks."

As the final few remained with their drinks at the pub, barman Pasquale Catena claimed that the cordoned-off bridge was "just too small".

"I always slow down before I come to it and try and avoid cars coming towards me," he said.

"If there's a bus or a lorry, then I'll wait and let it cross."

Another resident, Michael Brown, 42, also described a "log jam" when buses meet.

"There's been a lot of worry about buses coming through the village because the roads aren't built to cope," he said.

"Ideally people wouldn't want buses coming through the village."

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