Army and Navy: 'I will not let them rest until something is done'
AFTER 34 years, dozens of accidents, three deaths, many more serious injuries and countless complaints falling on deaf ears, one woman's campaigning has convinced Essex County Council to look at ways to make the notorious Army & Navy flyover safer.
A car travelling the wrong way over the one-way Chelmsford flyover smashed into Janet Barnes' car in March.
She escaped with cuts and bruises, but her 87-year-old mother Peggy Taylor was left with a broken chest bone, snapped wrist and severe bruising.
Peggy is now confined to a mental health ward after "going off the rails" in the aftermath of the crash, when they had to be cut free from the crumpled car.
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While she is stuck in the Crystal Centre in Broomfield Hospital, daughter Janet, 65, from West Hanningfield, has launched a tireless crusade to bring changes to the flyover.
And her demands have caused such a stir that the issue was raised at a full meeting of Essex County Council's top brass this week.
Seventy of the most influential politicians in Essex packed into County Hall as the matter was discussed.
Cllr Mike Mackrory, acting leader of the Essex Liberal Democrats and county councillor for Springfield, told the packed chamber: "There are eight lanes on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and they can organise traffic flows in any combination they like. We need to look at solutions like that.
"I am very anxious to hear what additional measures are being brought forward following this awful spate of incidents including a tragic death."
Councillors are now putting in place an action plan to fix the structure, which has been labelled a "death trap".
Cllr Dick Madden, county councillor for central Chelmsford, added: "The Army & Navy is critical to the Essex economy and has a direct effect on people living in my area.
"I am raring to hear what ideas they have."
After each head-on crash since the flyover was built as a temporary structure in 1978, the council has been inundated with complaints.
But they have only decided to put their "action plan" into motion after a series of confrontations with Mrs Barnes.
She took her bandaged mum to Essex County Council's Chelmsford headquarters recently for a showdown.
They demanded to speak to Liz Saville, the council's head of highways network management, but were denied a meeting. However, after refusing to leave, Ms Saville eventually emerged to speak to the pair.
Mrs Barnes said: "When we went to see the woman at the council my mum grabbed hold of her and was crying her eyes out, saying 'look at me, I do not want anyone else to go through this'.
"The woman was nearly in tears when my mum said, 'I used to have a life, now I am just an old woman and my mind has gone'."
Peggy is now in the Crystal Centre after failing to recover mentally from the March 16 crash.
"These last months have been hell and it just seems to be getting worse," said Mrs Barnes.
"I do not even know how long she is going to be at the Crystal Centre now. It always makes me a bit sad when I go in there.
"Fingers crossed, something will actually be done now."
An Essex County Council spokesman said: "A meeting was held at County Hall to review the specific circumstances around recent incidents at the Army & Navy flyover.
"We are continuing to investigate whether any specific safety improvements are required, and will provide further updates when a decision has been taken.
"Essex County Council is continuously looking at ways to improve Essex's highways and has drivers' safety at the top of its agenda."
But Mrs Barnes added: "I will not let them rest until something has been done. My life has not taken this immense turn for the worse for nothing.
"Looking at the state of my mother is a reminder every day of what happened.
"I'm worried this 'action plan' will be all talk and I won't quit until something substantial is done to fix the problem."