The Highways Agency’s failure to maintain the A21 between Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge led to the death of a 20-year-old student in a car crash.
That was the view of Coroner Roger Hatch, who ruled that Lucy Boughton’s car skidded off the A21 because of the Agency’s failure to carry out maintenance.
Miss Boughton was at the wheel when her car crashed on 24 October, 2011, skidding on the stretch between Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge just before the road becomes a dual carriageway.
The inquest, which was held at Tunbridge Wells Coroners’ Court last Wednesday (24 April) , heard that Miss Boughton was not at fault for the incident.
She was travelling back to Sevenoaks with her sister Amy in a Volkswagen Polo, but lost control as she got halfway round the bend.
During the inquest it emerged that the Highways Agency had failed to take action in the three years before her death.
This was despite warnings that skid resistance levels on the road fell below the required standards.
Alexandra Luck, a consultant employed by Kent Police to investigate the accident, said: “In 2007 skid resistance was measured as above investigative level. But for 2008 to 2010 all tests show the bend falling below investigative levels and getting lower over the period.
“Only in 2010 was an investigation after testing carried out within the required time frame. No documentation was provided to me which demonstrates action was taken or whether they took into consideration the trend in collisions post resurfacing.
“The authorities received complaints in 2009 and 2010 about the safety of the road – in its response in 2010 it said that high-friction surfacing would be laid in January 2011, but this was not carried out.
“I believe that there have been significant systemic failures to maintain the highway, despite a worsening safety record.”
It was revealed that four investigations were carried out at Castle Hill between May 2009 and 2011 but the route did not score high enough to receive funding.
Elio Rapa, a manager for engineering consultants Balfour Beatty Mott MacDonald, said: “After Lucy’s accident we realised that we had tried to promote schemes but failed to get the data to get them implemented. After the fatality we couldn’t wait for another to happen and the Highways Agency authorised funding for high-friction surfacing.”
Summing up, Hatch said: “So it’s a question of money – the bend wasn’t a national priority but, when an accident like this happens, funds can suddenly be found.”
A Highways Agency spokesperson said: “Our deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of Lucy Boughton following this tragic incident. We will give very careful consideration to any written recommendations from the Coroner.”