EXHAUSTED residents of a crash-plagued village dubbed one of England’s worst pollution hotspots showed off stats revealing soaring vehicle numbers and insisted a proposed bypass can’t come soon enough.
Hickleton and neighbouring Marr have seen a 20 per cent surge in the number of recorded journeys along the A635 — branded the Road to Hell — over the past seven years.
More than 23,000 cars, lorries and motorbikes a day pass through the village a day — that’s one every four seconds and one a second during rush hour.
Throw in roadside nitrogen dioxide levels more than twice the guideline UK average —according to Friends of the Earth, Hickleton has two of the ten most polluted sites in the whole of England, when you discount London — and 20 accidents in little over two-and-half-years, many of them wrecking cars and smashing down walls, and you have a recipe for fear and frustration.
Only last week a motorcyclist was badly hurt in yet another collision at the notorious A635/Hickleton Road cross-roads.
Stand outside the attractive stone house where Dick and Lynn Clark have lived for 30 years and the background traffic rumble from the A635 around 50 yards away would have you believe you were close to a motorway, not a single-lane stretch winding itself through what was once a sleepy village.
There is hope on the horizon, as city region Mayor Dan Jarvis has reignited plans for a bypass long rejected by Doncaster Council as too costly, but the wary couple insist the new road is needed sooner rather than later.
“The vehicle numbers have gone through the roof,” said Dick, pointing to a table which shows average two-way traffic of 18,297 journeys in 2012 and 23,267 so far this year.
“It’s traffic to and from Barnsley, Rotherham and the new Dearne Valley developments like the ASOS warehouse.
“One in seven journeys are by lorries and many of these are double-trailers.
“The A635 splits the village in two but trying to walk along some of the pavements or cross the road can be terrifying, especially for some of the more elderly people.”
Villagers began campaigning for a bypass for Hickleton and even-smaller Marr just to the east almost 30 years ago, but they relaunched their Bypass Action Group with renewed focus last year as the prospect of HS2 cutting south-to-north through the nearby countryside began to loom ever larger.
Group chairman Dick notes that Barnsley decided to spend a chunk of transport regeneration cash in the 1990s on converting its biggest eastern road into the two-lane Dearne Valley Parkway from Birdwell to Manvers, but Doncaster opted to splash £28 million on the new St George’s Bridge over the River Don and kicked any idea of a Hickleton bypass into the long grass.
As recently as last November, when Dick forced the issue with Doncaster Mayor Ros Jones at a council meeting, she dismissed it as too costly (at a potential £40 million).
Mr Jarvis, who is also MP for Barnsley, has now put it back on the table, asking officials from both councils and his own Sheffield City Region team to prepare a business case with which to lobby the Government for funding.
Dick seems cautiously hopeful, saying: “They are referring to it as the A1 regeneration route (the A635 links the A1 and M1 via the centre of Barnsley).
“It’s thought a Hickleton Marr bypass could help open up the potential of the Dearne Valley corridor.
“But it’s got to to through several stages beyond the business case and the final decision will still be made by the Department for Transport.”
The stage of proposing routes for a new road is some way off, as is its configuration, which could be a standard two-lane dual carriageway or possibly include a crawler lane for the thousands of HGVs it would serve daily.
In the mean time, residents remain concerned for their own safety and that of motorists, many of whom obviously flout the 30mph speed limit, lorries in particular making for a menacing sight as they rumble down the hill past the village club.
There have been 11 notable accidents within the village in the last 12 months on A635, compared with eight in the previous 15 months.
Almost all happened on a 300-metre stretch, including lorries jack-knifing at the village crossroads, a street-light being smashed down, cars overturning and numerous stone structures — from garden walls to the village sign — shattered.
In January, the road was closed for four hours and two motorists were taken to hospital after a lorry and car collided at the cross roads, and the Saturday of the Easter weekend brought two smashes on the same day.
“The old people hold hands and rush across the road as fast as they can,” said Lynn.
“You develop the technique of slowing down as you come into the village so there’s a car going slowly behind you as you turn – otherwise you fear you could be rear-ended.”
Then there’s the issue of pollution, which show nitrogen oxide levels outside a care home twice the recommended limit.
“The difficulty we have there is no continuous monitoring of pollution so it’s diffcult to abscribe something like ashtma to it,” said Dick.
One villager, who asked not to be named, said: “The traffic noise is almost constant. A lot of the time we stay in the house and keep the door shut.
“When you cross the road, you have to go halfway across and if someone doesn’t stop or slow down for you, you feel like you’re in danger.”
“The bypass needs to happen as soon as possible.”
The campaigners have managed to hook some high profile backers — Doncaster North MP Ed Miliband was reportedly left chilled by the road risks when he visited recently, while Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, who has plans to revamp his region’s transport links, sent a supportive letter.
Transport for the North’s chief John Cridland, meanwhile, has an open invitation to Hickleton, the Clarks said.
Lynn said: “Whatever happens, we know we are going to have several more years of this.
“But something needs to happen soon — the numbers are going to keep going up and up.”