RESIDENTS and community leaders in the Loughgall Road are calling for urgent road safety improvements after a pensioner was knocked down and seriously injured on Sunday evening.
Mr Alec McMullen (78) remains in a critical condition in the Intensive Care Unit of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.
It is believed he was crossing the road to get something for dinner when the collision took place at around 6.15pm.
And it emerged this week that concerns had been raised in the previous months, and as recently as that very morning, about safety on this stretch of road.
The spot where the accident took place is in front of the Spar garage, St Columba’s Parish Church and the entrance to Westland Road, as well as being on a bend.
DUP councillor Darryn Causby said he had first contacted DRD about the Loughgall Road last February amid residents’ concerns and had asked them for a traffic calming assessment to be carried out.
He said, “This was carried out and assessed as medium priority. I wasn’t happy and at the end of March asked for a site meeting but received no reply. I have heard nothing since despite having contacted them in April again.
“In light of the accident, I spoke to Roads Service on Monday, told them what had happened and again requested a site meeting. I have pointed out the key issues - speeding, parking, crossing provision, HGVs parking opposite the garage, parking at the church and inadequate signage.
“I am still waiting to hear from them. In the meantime, my thoughts and prayers are with the family and the injured man and I will do everything in my power to have the problem addressed.”
The most recent warning came on the morning of the accident when parishioners at St Columba’s Parish Church were urged to use the car park and exercise caution on the road in a message in the Sunday bulletin.
The vicar, the Rev Elizabeth Cairns, also revealed that just three days previously at a Vestry meeting, a letter had been drafted to DRD Roads Service in which the safety worries were outlined.
She said, “ I arrived at the church at 6.25pm for the evening service and the ambulance was at the gate of the church. It was probably about a month ago that the issue was first raised at the church meeting. We have youth organisations using the church hall every week night, and on the busy nights and Sunday mornings there are 60 to 70 children.”
The Rev Cairns said there were a number of safety issues. She explained, “There is a problem with excessive speed on the road, in particular some of the lorries. It is also quite dark outside the church.
“Because there are no yellow lines, people park along the road, including lorries which park on the kerb opposite the garage, making it difficult for pedestrians and motorists to see.
”The corner makes it very difficult to see past the garage when you are coming out of the church. The sightlines are every bad.”
She added that there were around 100 spaces in the church car park, but that some parishioners, through force of habit or lack of spaces, sometimes parked along the road. “That is why we had posted a notice in the bulletin asking people to use the car park and take care,” she said.
“There are also children coming from Clounagh JHS, Hart Memorial PS and other schools and I have watched some elderly people take their life in their hands trying to get across.”
Karl Black, secretary of Corcrain and Redmanville Community Partnership, said he had been contacted a number of months ago by worried residents. He said, “It’s a stretch of road that gets heavy use. Cars park on the side of the road and there is traffic going into the garage and the church as well as Westland Road.
“A lot of children have to cross the road, whether it’s to go to the shop or schools or youth groups.
“I had met with Darryn Causby several months ago and the aim was for him to arrange a site meeting with DRD that interested parties and residents could attend. The question is what we can do to make the road safer without causing inconvenience and tailbacks. It’s going to have to be looked at very carefully.”
A Loughgall Road resident, who did no wish to be named, pointed out that a 30mph speed limit sign had been taken down two years ago and had never been put back up. He said, “There are no speed restriction signs whatsoever, apart from a sign indicating bumps in Westland Road. Anyone driving in either direction has no way of knowing what the speed limit is. The speed of the HGVs flying up and down is frightening.
“Myself and a few of my neighbours had been considering getting a petition together and I had contacted DRD and was speaking to councillors too.”
A DRD Roads Service spokesperson said, “Roads Service has been contacted by a local councillor and a local resident following a recent road traffic incident on Loughgall Road, Portadown. Roads Service is currently arranging a meeting to discuss local residents’ concerns regarding traffic on the Loughgall Road.”