Man died at accident blackspot where TfL had failed to take action
Coroner attacks transports chiefs for lack of action before Mark Welsh's death
21 December, 2017 — By William McLennan
A CORONER has slammed Transport for London for taking an “inordinately long time” to make safety improvements at an accident blackspot after a man was killed by a lorry at a junction that has been waiting for more than a decade for a pedestrian crossing to be installed.
Mark Welsh was crossing Dukes Road when he was hit by a lorry that was turning left out of Euston Road at around 9.30am on July 6. The 55-year-old suffered devastating injuries that killed him instantly, St Pancras Coroner’s Court heard on Monday.
After hearing that plans to make the crossing safer had been under discussion since 2003, coroner Mary Hassell said she would be writing to TfL to call for urgent action. Karen Dove, director of system management at Unison, said that the union have had grave concerns about the junction following a number of “near-misses” after they moved to their new HQ opposite in 2011.
They repeatedly called on TfL to act, she said, adding: “Our fear had always been that there would be a fatality and we wanted to avoid that.” Unison were told that any changes would likely lead to traffic jams, which may create risks for pedestrians and cyclists at other junctions.
Ms Dove told the court: “We were concerned, I think, that traffic flow has been put ahead of pedestrian safety.”
Katherine Abraham, a project manager at TfL, said that 14 people had been injured at the crossroads in the past three years. She said pedestrian safety was “very much up their within our priorities” but added that Euston Road “keeps the London economy going” and this has to be balanced against making it “as safe as possible for people to cross the road”. Ms Abraham added: “We are working hard towards trying to identify improvements.”
Ms Hassell responded: “Are you working hard? I don’t mean to be flippant, but Unison have been complaining about it for years. You undertook a feasibility study in 2013 and we are almost in 2018 and there is no plan. It doesn’t scream out that you are concerned about safety at the crossing and are doing something about it.”
Referring to the arrival of HS2, which is expected to bring extra commuters into Euston, and the Mayor’s commitment to increase the number of pedestrians and cyclists, Ms Hassell said: “We want our city to grow. We want our city to thrive. If we want all of that, we have to be ready for them [the extra pedestrians]. We have to make a safe environment. This junction appears to have been looked at for an inordinately long time without any action. It is such a shame when change is driven only by a death.”
Ms Hassell said she would send a report of her concerns to TfL bosses, adding: “I am going to raise the length of time that this has been looked at and ask TfL to do whatever they can to improve this and to do that quickly.”
Speaking outside court, Mr Welsh’s daughter, Charlotte, said: “The world is a much worse place without him.” She said her father, who had previously worked with the highways department at Lincolnshire Count Council, had “put public safety very high on his agenda”. She added: “Quite clearly that’s something that has not been happening in this area. I think unequivocally my father’s death could have been prevented by there being a pedestrian crossing.”
Mr Welsh’s sister, Caroline, said: “He has left five sisters that worshipped him. He was our big brother and I’m lost without him, but he loved life, so we will continue loving life too.”
Gareth Powell, TfL’s managing director of Surface Transport, said: “Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of Mark Welsh. We are now reviewing the Coroner’s conclusion and taking action to address all of the points raised.”