YET another car stuck on Holy Island causeway at the weekend has prompted the county council to call a meeting of those increasingly concerned at the number of rescues having to be carried out.
On Saturday, a Cumbrian couple had to be airlifted to safety by an RAF helicopter after becoming stranded. An RNLI lifeboat was also launched to assist.
It was the tenth time this year that Seahouses lifeboat volunteers were called to launch the lifeboat in aid of stranded motorists on the causeway, and since 2000 the lifeboat crew have rescued more than 170 people from the causeway.
Coastguards based on Holy Island have also had to assist on numerous other occasions this year when drivers ignore the safe crossing times posted at either end of the tidal causeway.
Mike Scott, head of sustainable transport at Northumberland County Council, said: “Invitations are being issued this week to council officers, elected members, the RNLI and other interested parties to meet to consider all possible options for motorists using the causeway, including those that have previously been identified, such as smart signs.
“Funding could be made available for a new sign system, or other option, provided we can demonstrate that the investment will have tangible benefits.”
However, Mr Scott added: “There are already numerous signs warning motorists of dangers on the causeway, which a tiny minority of motorists simply ignore.
“If we are to add further signs, we need to be assured that they will not also be ignored by those people who appear to think that tide tables do not apply to them.”
Ian Clayton, Seahouses RNLI operations manager, told the Advertiser that he shared Mr Scott’s concerns that new signage may still be ignored.
He said: “People drive past the current signage completely oblivious to it and plough into the water thinking it is only a couple of inches deep, but don’t realise the road dips down and that is when they get stuck.”
Although not wanting to prejudge anything to come from the meeting, which could take place towards the end of the month, Mr Clayton said a physical barrier had been ruled out before due to the damage sea water would cause.
“One thing that has been looked at before was a smart sign, and instead of it being linked to the safe crossing times, it could be linked up to the actual water height,” said Mr Clayton.
He added: “It costs the RNLI £1,200 every time the inshore lifeboat is sent out, and while none of the crew complain about having to go up there it starts to get very tedious and it is so predictable and preventable.”
Calls for increased signage, a physical barrier, or legislation which would make it an offence to cross outside the safe crossing times have all been suggested in the past by various groups and the public.
Mr Clayton said that discussions had taken place in recent years with the council over what could be done, but these had been put on the backburner following local government reorganisation and recent budget cuts.
He added that it was ‘encouraging’ that the council had come forward with the proposed meeting following increased publicity after the recent spate of incidents.
“We will look at the options and see what can be done,” said Mr Clayton.
Three years ago 15 year-old Tim Cockayne-Edwards, from Longridge Towers School, was runner-up in the north of England regional final of the 2008 Young Engineers for Britain awards after designing an electronic sign for the causeway.
The design included computer controlled, solar powered signposts which would detect approaching vehicles and warn them when it was unsafe to cross.
I’m sorry but these people should have to pay. We go on about how much things cost now a days but we can’t read tide times and sign’s. Come on people, help pay for your stupidity as the lifeboat is not government funded and surely this is a worth while charity.